Preaching assurance vs. preaching doubt

I have noticed that there are two kinds of preachers, especially when addressing young people: One kind tries to assure the listeners of their salvation in Christ, underscoring His grace and mercy and His atoning work on the Cross. The other kind tries to make the listeners question whether they are “really” Christians. (“Did you REALLY give your life to the Lord? Do you show the fruit of true faith? Does your life show evidence of true conversion? Maybe you need to commit your life to him again, just to be sure.”)

Granted the problem of nominal Christianity. And granted the need to make people realize how sinful they are so as to help them grasp their need of the Gospel. But I would argue that the latter approach can do great harm. The one thing that DOES make a Christian is faith in Christ. Doubt is the opposite of faith. To make a person doubt his or her salvation is, ironically, to destroy faith, rather than to build it up. Furthermore, these “are you really a Christian” messages have the effect of making the hearers look within, at their good works or their feelings or their piety or whatever. Surely, whenever we look honestly at ourselves we will find nothing to commend ourselves before God. Rather, what needs to happen is to encourage troubled or doubting souls to look OUTSIDE themselves to the Cross of Jesus and the promises of God’s Word, to objective facts about God’s disposition towards them (“Did God cause you to be baptized? Have you taken the Lord’s Supper and heard the words “given for you”?)

I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.

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.

  • WebMonk

    Any examples in particular in mind when you say

    I have noticed that there are two kinds of preachers, especially when addressing young people: One kind tries to assure the listeners of their salvation in Christ, underscoring His grace and mercy and His atoning work on the Cross. The other kind tries to make the listeners question whether they are “really” Christians.

    Or is this a randomly generated observation?

  • WebMonk

    Any examples in particular in mind when you say

    I have noticed that there are two kinds of preachers, especially when addressing young people: One kind tries to assure the listeners of their salvation in Christ, underscoring His grace and mercy and His atoning work on the Cross. The other kind tries to make the listeners question whether they are “really” Christians.

    Or is this a randomly generated observation?

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    ‘I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.’

    ‘Scare’ suggests the Law is being used in such instances. The Law has its proper uses, especially in restraining evil in unbelievers and mortifying the ‘old Adam’ in believers, but it does not have the power to to serve as the motivation for Christian living (‘greater piety’). That’s what the Gospel does.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    ‘I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.’

    ‘Scare’ suggests the Law is being used in such instances. The Law has its proper uses, especially in restraining evil in unbelievers and mortifying the ‘old Adam’ in believers, but it does not have the power to to serve as the motivation for Christian living (‘greater piety’). That’s what the Gospel does.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Arghhhhh! Veeeeeith!!!!

    You just had to bring this up!!!!!

    We just got a new DCE, and now I am going to lose sleep wondering how and what what he is teaching my teen!!!!

    Don’t mothers have enough worries!!!!

    Argggggggggggh!!!!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Arghhhhh! Veeeeeith!!!!

    You just had to bring this up!!!!!

    We just got a new DCE, and now I am going to lose sleep wondering how and what what he is teaching my teen!!!!

    Don’t mothers have enough worries!!!!

    Argggggggggggh!!!!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Shoot. I should have used all capitals!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Shoot. I should have used all capitals!

  • helen

    40 years ago we had a trained school principal who was also titled DCE. He was fairly good at his job.

    The ones I’ve seen since were worth as much as the office of Vice President.

  • helen

    40 years ago we had a trained school principal who was also titled DCE. He was fairly good at his job.

    The ones I’ve seen since were worth as much as the office of Vice President.

  • Booklover

    Your blog entry said it all, and I have nothing further to add.

  • Booklover

    Your blog entry said it all, and I have nothing further to add.

  • fws

    Webmonk and Pastor Henderson and Sg:

    The only way to understand what Dr Veith is saying and to know what the correct and christian practice must look like is to understand the Lutheran teaching on Holy Baptism, which I suggest is the only truly christian view of this doctrine:

    We are commanded by the 8th Commandment (don’t bear false witness) to address all the Baptised as believers.

    Why is this so?

    A believer enters two realms when he or she is baptized.

    1) A Baptized One becomes a citizen of an earthly government that is really identical in character to the other two earthly governments called family and society. He is already simultaneously a dual citizen of those other two governments as well. Now he has acquired yet another passport.

    This goverment is called in the Apostle’s Creed “The Holy Catholic Church. While this government would not need to have it’s citizens recommit or renew their citizenship, they must insist that those citizens learn the Laws of that government. The name of that Law in this peculiar government is “Doctrine”. And this government must insist that all it’s citizens study, learn and follow this Law.

    I should note two additional points here: This Government is called “Catholic” precisely because it is not limited by denominational, ethnic or political boundaries. Secondly this Earthly Kingdom Government contains both hipocrite-look-like-believers and true believers. But we are commanded by love, not by faith, to assume in charity, that all Baptized Ones are true believers and so legitimate citizens of this Government.

    But here now is the critical point of all this:

    Remember that I said that the Baptized One enters into TWO realms by Baptism. So what is the other realm? “In, with and under” that Earthly Command and Ordinance and Law of that Earthly Law Government called the Holy Catholic Church something invisible happens.

    Of course I am referring here to the Command and Ordinance of Christ to apply ordinary tap water to people while invoking the Name of the Holy Trinity over them. What an odd sort of government and law that is!

    So “In, with and under” the water, there is a Promise. Invisible Faith clings to that promise that is located right there in the water, that is outside of us, and Faith thereby receives the Promised Mercy!

    But what is that Promised Mercy? It is nothing less than the full and immediate restoration of the Image of God and the Original Righteousness that Adam lost in the fall. How? That word of Promise localized, “in, with and under” the water does it! That Word creates faith just exactly in the same way the leprosy of Naaman in II Kings was cured. This is to trust in the Promise located in a most unlikely and most UNspiritual place.

    And this is the ONLY place to point a young person to in order to both assure him of the certainty of his salvation, while at the same time making him terrified of his sin! Terrified of his sin? How does this make someone certain of their salvation?!! Read on please.

    So what does all this have to do with what Dr Veith is talking about? If you have already not connected the Dots it is this:

    My first question to a stranger when I am doing apologetics or discussing religion therefore is to ask someone if they have been baptized.

    If someone was baptized, then I know my task: It is to teach someone back into their Baptism. If that person has not been baptized, then I know my task: it is to teach someone into Baptism.

    And to teach someone into Holy Baptism is to do exactly this:

    1) only Faith can accept the Judgement of God’s Word about even our best and most noble and even our “sanctified” or “christian” virtues and Good Works. And what is that judgement? it is found in Isaiah and everywhere as this” “all your righteousness is the moral equivalent of a used tampon.” Eeeew. So faith does not flee this judgement by working harder at acquiring sufficient virtue to present to God. No. Faith yields the proper response to the Judgement of God. That is to be terrified!

    2) Only then can Faith know to do the most important thing, which is this: Faith hides ALL its own Good Works inside the Works of Another. Only then the conscience finds rest. Only then the Law is powerless to accuse us. And only when the Law stops accusing us can God become an Object of Love and also true Fear at the same time!

    And Faith now seeks to control his Old Adam because it fears God and believes that he will punish Old Adam into doing Goodness and Mercy for others if Old Adam refuses.

    So faith alone can make a man clean on the inside by alone being hidden in Christ and also drive him to do the same Goodness and Mercy that is God’s Will that all pagans also are , in the same way, driven to do.

    But the Law cannot put an end to sin. Only the Gospel can do this! And it does this immediately in Baptism alone.

    And so dr veith says this

    The one thing that DOES make a Christian is faith in Christ.

    And this is the only thing also that alone can put an end to sinning. When we discipline our Old Adams , we are merely applying some Sherman Williams in the tone of “sepulcher white” to our Old Adams. And there is no life in doing this for us. There is only death. And it is good for us to do this because only then can we be Goodness and Mercy for others. But we don’t see our Life there. Our Life is where? It is Hidden in Christ!

    “as many of you as were Baptize were buried and hidden with Christ into his death!”

    Baptism is precisely how God hides us away in Christ! “in with and under” the water.

    It is not the water our outward act that does this. it is that word of Promise located there and faith that trusts in that word of Promise.

    This is what the Small Catechism teaches us:

    ——————————————————————————–

    IV. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

    As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.

    First.

    What is Baptism?–Answer.

    Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

    Which is that word of God?–Answer.

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    Secondly.

    What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    Thirdly.

    How can water do such great things?–Answer.

    It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

    Fourthly.
    What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

    It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Where is this written?–Answer.

    St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

  • fws

    Webmonk and Pastor Henderson and Sg:

    The only way to understand what Dr Veith is saying and to know what the correct and christian practice must look like is to understand the Lutheran teaching on Holy Baptism, which I suggest is the only truly christian view of this doctrine:

    We are commanded by the 8th Commandment (don’t bear false witness) to address all the Baptised as believers.

    Why is this so?

    A believer enters two realms when he or she is baptized.

    1) A Baptized One becomes a citizen of an earthly government that is really identical in character to the other two earthly governments called family and society. He is already simultaneously a dual citizen of those other two governments as well. Now he has acquired yet another passport.

    This goverment is called in the Apostle’s Creed “The Holy Catholic Church. While this government would not need to have it’s citizens recommit or renew their citizenship, they must insist that those citizens learn the Laws of that government. The name of that Law in this peculiar government is “Doctrine”. And this government must insist that all it’s citizens study, learn and follow this Law.

    I should note two additional points here: This Government is called “Catholic” precisely because it is not limited by denominational, ethnic or political boundaries. Secondly this Earthly Kingdom Government contains both hipocrite-look-like-believers and true believers. But we are commanded by love, not by faith, to assume in charity, that all Baptized Ones are true believers and so legitimate citizens of this Government.

    But here now is the critical point of all this:

    Remember that I said that the Baptized One enters into TWO realms by Baptism. So what is the other realm? “In, with and under” that Earthly Command and Ordinance and Law of that Earthly Law Government called the Holy Catholic Church something invisible happens.

    Of course I am referring here to the Command and Ordinance of Christ to apply ordinary tap water to people while invoking the Name of the Holy Trinity over them. What an odd sort of government and law that is!

    So “In, with and under” the water, there is a Promise. Invisible Faith clings to that promise that is located right there in the water, that is outside of us, and Faith thereby receives the Promised Mercy!

    But what is that Promised Mercy? It is nothing less than the full and immediate restoration of the Image of God and the Original Righteousness that Adam lost in the fall. How? That word of Promise localized, “in, with and under” the water does it! That Word creates faith just exactly in the same way the leprosy of Naaman in II Kings was cured. This is to trust in the Promise located in a most unlikely and most UNspiritual place.

    And this is the ONLY place to point a young person to in order to both assure him of the certainty of his salvation, while at the same time making him terrified of his sin! Terrified of his sin? How does this make someone certain of their salvation?!! Read on please.

    So what does all this have to do with what Dr Veith is talking about? If you have already not connected the Dots it is this:

    My first question to a stranger when I am doing apologetics or discussing religion therefore is to ask someone if they have been baptized.

    If someone was baptized, then I know my task: It is to teach someone back into their Baptism. If that person has not been baptized, then I know my task: it is to teach someone into Baptism.

    And to teach someone into Holy Baptism is to do exactly this:

    1) only Faith can accept the Judgement of God’s Word about even our best and most noble and even our “sanctified” or “christian” virtues and Good Works. And what is that judgement? it is found in Isaiah and everywhere as this” “all your righteousness is the moral equivalent of a used tampon.” Eeeew. So faith does not flee this judgement by working harder at acquiring sufficient virtue to present to God. No. Faith yields the proper response to the Judgement of God. That is to be terrified!

    2) Only then can Faith know to do the most important thing, which is this: Faith hides ALL its own Good Works inside the Works of Another. Only then the conscience finds rest. Only then the Law is powerless to accuse us. And only when the Law stops accusing us can God become an Object of Love and also true Fear at the same time!

    And Faith now seeks to control his Old Adam because it fears God and believes that he will punish Old Adam into doing Goodness and Mercy for others if Old Adam refuses.

    So faith alone can make a man clean on the inside by alone being hidden in Christ and also drive him to do the same Goodness and Mercy that is God’s Will that all pagans also are , in the same way, driven to do.

    But the Law cannot put an end to sin. Only the Gospel can do this! And it does this immediately in Baptism alone.

    And so dr veith says this

    The one thing that DOES make a Christian is faith in Christ.

    And this is the only thing also that alone can put an end to sinning. When we discipline our Old Adams , we are merely applying some Sherman Williams in the tone of “sepulcher white” to our Old Adams. And there is no life in doing this for us. There is only death. And it is good for us to do this because only then can we be Goodness and Mercy for others. But we don’t see our Life there. Our Life is where? It is Hidden in Christ!

    “as many of you as were Baptize were buried and hidden with Christ into his death!”

    Baptism is precisely how God hides us away in Christ! “in with and under” the water.

    It is not the water our outward act that does this. it is that word of Promise located there and faith that trusts in that word of Promise.

    This is what the Small Catechism teaches us:

    ——————————————————————————–

    IV. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

    As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.

    First.

    What is Baptism?–Answer.

    Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

    Which is that word of God?–Answer.

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    Secondly.

    What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    Thirdly.

    How can water do such great things?–Answer.

    It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

    Fourthly.
    What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

    It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Where is this written?–Answer.

    St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

  • http://enlivenonline.com Jason Barker

    You wrote, “I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.”

    One of the effects of such scare tactics is to drive young adults to the “doubt” proclaimed so enthusiastically by the emergent movement: the young adults happily latch onto the teaching that, if you believe nothing can truly be known, you no longer need to trouble yourself with certitude.

  • http://enlivenonline.com Jason Barker

    You wrote, “I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.”

    One of the effects of such scare tactics is to drive young adults to the “doubt” proclaimed so enthusiastically by the emergent movement: the young adults happily latch onto the teaching that, if you believe nothing can truly be known, you no longer need to trouble yourself with certitude.

  • Lori B

    Thinking that you are not Christian ‘enough’ is a terrible way to live. I was raised in a small-town Southern Baptist Church, and spent my youth wondering if I was truly ‘saved’. The interesting part is that constantly looking to my piety made me haughty and judgemental. I certainly knew I was ‘better’ than a lot of other people. Thinking myself pious, yet doubting my own salvation was a strange dichotomy, indeed. I thank God for my mother who always preached the true Gospel to me and assured me of my faith and salvation. I also thank God that I met my husband and began attending an LCMS church with him, where I heard the true Gospel preached in church, rather than Hell fire and damnation, for the first time in my life.

    I am now constantly on guard for this type of teaching. I used to do Bible several Bible studies outside of my church, because the times they were held and the childcare provided made them very convenient for me. At one of these studies, the large group leader told us that she had not allowed her son , who I think was about 8 at the time, to be baptized even though he had said “The Sinners Prayer” multiple times. Her reasoning? She had not seen enough heart change in him to show her he was really a believer. That was 10 years ago, and I still think about that poor boy. I can’t imagine my mother telling me I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be baptized, because my faith wasn’t ‘real enough.’ At another study a few years ago, I was much more confident in sharing the true Gospel with the group of Baptist women that I was in the study with. Shortly after I had shared this, the small group leader started sharing a personal story with us and about halfway through it was made abundantly clear to me that she was quoting verses specifically to me to make me doubt my salvation.
    No thank you! Praise God He has assured me of my salvation, and I don’t need to believe anyone who tells me any different. But given my background, doubt is a snare that I can too easily fall into. So for the sake of my faith, I no longer do studies at other churches. I have joined a community study with some friends who are all of different denominations. One of the Bible studies we used a few months ago said that we should not assure our children of their salvation, because we have no way of knowing if their faith is real. Up until this point, I had thought this was an excellent study on raising godly girls. I all but jumped out of my seat, vehemently denying this statement saying we absolutely should assure our children of their faith and salvation. The Catholics in the group disagreed and so did the Baptists, but I think at least I made them think a little differently about it.

    Would that my church was closer to my home and that the LCMS wasn’t just a tiny fragment of Christians in the South…

  • Lori B

    Thinking that you are not Christian ‘enough’ is a terrible way to live. I was raised in a small-town Southern Baptist Church, and spent my youth wondering if I was truly ‘saved’. The interesting part is that constantly looking to my piety made me haughty and judgemental. I certainly knew I was ‘better’ than a lot of other people. Thinking myself pious, yet doubting my own salvation was a strange dichotomy, indeed. I thank God for my mother who always preached the true Gospel to me and assured me of my faith and salvation. I also thank God that I met my husband and began attending an LCMS church with him, where I heard the true Gospel preached in church, rather than Hell fire and damnation, for the first time in my life.

    I am now constantly on guard for this type of teaching. I used to do Bible several Bible studies outside of my church, because the times they were held and the childcare provided made them very convenient for me. At one of these studies, the large group leader told us that she had not allowed her son , who I think was about 8 at the time, to be baptized even though he had said “The Sinners Prayer” multiple times. Her reasoning? She had not seen enough heart change in him to show her he was really a believer. That was 10 years ago, and I still think about that poor boy. I can’t imagine my mother telling me I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be baptized, because my faith wasn’t ‘real enough.’ At another study a few years ago, I was much more confident in sharing the true Gospel with the group of Baptist women that I was in the study with. Shortly after I had shared this, the small group leader started sharing a personal story with us and about halfway through it was made abundantly clear to me that she was quoting verses specifically to me to make me doubt my salvation.
    No thank you! Praise God He has assured me of my salvation, and I don’t need to believe anyone who tells me any different. But given my background, doubt is a snare that I can too easily fall into. So for the sake of my faith, I no longer do studies at other churches. I have joined a community study with some friends who are all of different denominations. One of the Bible studies we used a few months ago said that we should not assure our children of their salvation, because we have no way of knowing if their faith is real. Up until this point, I had thought this was an excellent study on raising godly girls. I all but jumped out of my seat, vehemently denying this statement saying we absolutely should assure our children of their faith and salvation. The Catholics in the group disagreed and so did the Baptists, but I think at least I made them think a little differently about it.

    Would that my church was closer to my home and that the LCMS wasn’t just a tiny fragment of Christians in the South…

  • WebMonk

    What the heck, frank? I asked if Dr. Veith had a particular example in mind or if it was a generic observation, and your response answered my question …. how? Did you include my name by accident?

  • WebMonk

    What the heck, frank? I asked if Dr. Veith had a particular example in mind or if it was a generic observation, and your response answered my question …. how? Did you include my name by accident?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    When ever I hear a youth speaker say “Did you REALLY give your life to the Lord? Do you show the fruit of true faith? Does your life show evidence of true conversion?”, I have an irrepressible urge to go all St. Nick on their … Any pastor who says such a thing is not a pastor.

    Preach the Law and preach the Gospel. They will do what is needed. You do not need to play the guilt trip.

    Anyhow, the people who preach such guilt trips do not preach a gospel of assurance anyways. When salvation is dependent on your decision and only evidenced by your works there is nothing left but doubt. It pains me to watch my friends in the ministry turn to these fools because they have “successful” ministry and publish books with shiny covers. Our kids don’t need to look at their works and egos, they are already too cocky and too unsure of themselves. If our youth need one thing it is the Law to call them back and guide them through the process of growing independence and responsibility, and also the Gospel to forgive them when the screw up as they will. They don’t need more doubt and self-righteousness.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    When ever I hear a youth speaker say “Did you REALLY give your life to the Lord? Do you show the fruit of true faith? Does your life show evidence of true conversion?”, I have an irrepressible urge to go all St. Nick on their … Any pastor who says such a thing is not a pastor.

    Preach the Law and preach the Gospel. They will do what is needed. You do not need to play the guilt trip.

    Anyhow, the people who preach such guilt trips do not preach a gospel of assurance anyways. When salvation is dependent on your decision and only evidenced by your works there is nothing left but doubt. It pains me to watch my friends in the ministry turn to these fools because they have “successful” ministry and publish books with shiny covers. Our kids don’t need to look at their works and egos, they are already too cocky and too unsure of themselves. If our youth need one thing it is the Law to call them back and guide them through the process of growing independence and responsibility, and also the Gospel to forgive them when the screw up as they will. They don’t need more doubt and self-righteousness.

  • rlewer

    It all goes back to whether we are saved by grace or by our decision or our good works.

    Do good works save us or are they a result of being saved?

    Do we look to the cross to know if we are saved or do we look to ourselves?

    The wrong answers mean that we can never know that we are saved. What a horrible thought! Yet many teach and follow them.

  • rlewer

    It all goes back to whether we are saved by grace or by our decision or our good works.

    Do good works save us or are they a result of being saved?

    Do we look to the cross to know if we are saved or do we look to ourselves?

    The wrong answers mean that we can never know that we are saved. What a horrible thought! Yet many teach and follow them.

  • Bart

    This reminds me of certain events at ye olde alma mater. It is interesting that this approach often clings to the altar call, a false sacrament mimicking baptism.

  • Bart

    This reminds me of certain events at ye olde alma mater. It is interesting that this approach often clings to the altar call, a false sacrament mimicking baptism.

  • Mockingbird

    1) I’m reading a book right now called “Christless Christianity” that makes the same point, that the theme of much preaching today is “do more, try harder”. This has the result of touching felt needs, but giving no real comfort and in the end, being something other than Christianity.

    2) One of the best presentations I remember in seminary (BLTS) was from a member of our synod’s youth board who stressed the importance of preaching to our teens as if they were Christians. This included remembering to preach the whole counsel of God to them and not make every youth homily a lecture on the 6th Commandment.

  • Mockingbird

    1) I’m reading a book right now called “Christless Christianity” that makes the same point, that the theme of much preaching today is “do more, try harder”. This has the result of touching felt needs, but giving no real comfort and in the end, being something other than Christianity.

    2) One of the best presentations I remember in seminary (BLTS) was from a member of our synod’s youth board who stressed the importance of preaching to our teens as if they were Christians. This included remembering to preach the whole counsel of God to them and not make every youth homily a lecture on the 6th Commandment.

  • Helen F

    So, I guess if all those who have been duped by false teachers really took St. Paul’s words seriously, there would be less temptation to doubt the truth of God’s Word: see Romans 16:17

  • Helen F

    So, I guess if all those who have been duped by false teachers really took St. Paul’s words seriously, there would be less temptation to doubt the truth of God’s Word: see Romans 16:17

  • wcwirla

    Moralistic preaching, which is the norm for “youth ministry,” certainly does not alleviate the doubts that young people experience as they strike out into the unbelieving world. This is why we have such things as Higher Things. On the other hand, I wouldn’t necessarily peg this as the primary reason they check out. Consumerism (“have it your way”), skepticism (“I’ll believe it when I see it”) and the general hypocrisy of their parents and other authorities who don’t let their faith interfere with their own lives in any meaningful way all play a part in the demise of faith in our young people.

  • wcwirla

    Moralistic preaching, which is the norm for “youth ministry,” certainly does not alleviate the doubts that young people experience as they strike out into the unbelieving world. This is why we have such things as Higher Things. On the other hand, I wouldn’t necessarily peg this as the primary reason they check out. Consumerism (“have it your way”), skepticism (“I’ll believe it when I see it”) and the general hypocrisy of their parents and other authorities who don’t let their faith interfere with their own lives in any meaningful way all play a part in the demise of faith in our young people.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Preach the whole counsel of God.

    As sympathetic as I am towards those who have had the Gospel withheld from them by preachers like this who teach nothing but futile self-examination, I cannot recommend dividing preachers into these two mutually-exclusive types and then choosing one instead of the other. After all, there are places in the NT which explicitly assault believers with those very questions. If God saw fit to give these to His Church in Scripture, then pastors should not withhold them from their flocks.

    The problem with pastors who only question the sincerity of their flock’s faith is that they aren’t preaching the whole counsel of God. They are interested primarily in good behavior and preach only the parts they think will spur that behavior.

    The solution therefore is not to compensate for their error by preaching only the parts they skip that we are primarily interested in–assurance of salvation. That’s a social engineering solution that just repeats their error in a different direction.

    The solution is to preach the whole counsel of God. Preach the parts that accuse us; preach the parts that absolve us; preach the parts that question the legitimacy of our faith; and preach the parts that assure us of our forgiveness.

    So don’t overreact against American evangelicalism by ceasing to preach the parts of Scripture which are abused by it. Preach the whole counsel of God and let the Holy Spirit sort out what He uses it to spur us towards.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Preach the whole counsel of God.

    As sympathetic as I am towards those who have had the Gospel withheld from them by preachers like this who teach nothing but futile self-examination, I cannot recommend dividing preachers into these two mutually-exclusive types and then choosing one instead of the other. After all, there are places in the NT which explicitly assault believers with those very questions. If God saw fit to give these to His Church in Scripture, then pastors should not withhold them from their flocks.

    The problem with pastors who only question the sincerity of their flock’s faith is that they aren’t preaching the whole counsel of God. They are interested primarily in good behavior and preach only the parts they think will spur that behavior.

    The solution therefore is not to compensate for their error by preaching only the parts they skip that we are primarily interested in–assurance of salvation. That’s a social engineering solution that just repeats their error in a different direction.

    The solution is to preach the whole counsel of God. Preach the parts that accuse us; preach the parts that absolve us; preach the parts that question the legitimacy of our faith; and preach the parts that assure us of our forgiveness.

    So don’t overreact against American evangelicalism by ceasing to preach the parts of Scripture which are abused by it. Preach the whole counsel of God and let the Holy Spirit sort out what He uses it to spur us towards.

  • http://www.greenleafblog.net Caleb Land

    Dr. Veith,

    Thank you so much for this humbling post. I am a Bible teacher at a Christian School and youth pastor at an SBC church. I have been involved in youth ministry for a decade and I have known for a long time that we have problems. I have hated legalism and gospel-less preaching, manipulation and guilt tripping pastors who want to work kids over and boost salvation or baptism numbers. I have tried to be gospel-centric. Yet, I have fallen into the exact trap you write about both personally and in my teaching.

    I want you (and primarily some of your commentors) to know that many of us have good intentions, but are constantly trying to unlearn much of the youth ministry baggage we grew up with and were trained in. Thank you for the post and for the exhortation from someone who needs to continually grow in gospel grace in my personal and ministry life.

  • http://www.greenleafblog.net Caleb Land

    Dr. Veith,

    Thank you so much for this humbling post. I am a Bible teacher at a Christian School and youth pastor at an SBC church. I have been involved in youth ministry for a decade and I have known for a long time that we have problems. I have hated legalism and gospel-less preaching, manipulation and guilt tripping pastors who want to work kids over and boost salvation or baptism numbers. I have tried to be gospel-centric. Yet, I have fallen into the exact trap you write about both personally and in my teaching.

    I want you (and primarily some of your commentors) to know that many of us have good intentions, but are constantly trying to unlearn much of the youth ministry baggage we grew up with and were trained in. Thank you for the post and for the exhortation from someone who needs to continually grow in gospel grace in my personal and ministry life.

  • Darrel Cox

    What if members of a given audience have sat in church all their lives, but never actually been regenerated by saving faith? Water baptism does not save an individual; neither does even knowing the facts about Christ (“demons believe . . . and tremble”). Is a message of faith assurance to such individuals actually God’s Word to them? No.

    I do agree, however, that if an individual has unconditionally surrendered to Christ and is a follower of Him, such a message need not apply, nor should they look within for adequacy to commend themselves before God. Christ’s righteousness alone through true spiritual union commends them before God.

    The preachers mentioned in the note above generally are not seeking greater “piety” in the lives of young audiences, but rather the start of piety, which is being brought into union with Jesus Christ. There is a world of difference between the two.

  • Darrel Cox

    What if members of a given audience have sat in church all their lives, but never actually been regenerated by saving faith? Water baptism does not save an individual; neither does even knowing the facts about Christ (“demons believe . . . and tremble”). Is a message of faith assurance to such individuals actually God’s Word to them? No.

    I do agree, however, that if an individual has unconditionally surrendered to Christ and is a follower of Him, such a message need not apply, nor should they look within for adequacy to commend themselves before God. Christ’s righteousness alone through true spiritual union commends them before God.

    The preachers mentioned in the note above generally are not seeking greater “piety” in the lives of young audiences, but rather the start of piety, which is being brought into union with Jesus Christ. There is a world of difference between the two.

  • JonSLC

    Caleb,
    May the Lord bless you with understanding and courage as you strive to preach the gospel! It (not the law) is God’s power.

  • JonSLC

    Caleb,
    May the Lord bless you with understanding and courage as you strive to preach the gospel! It (not the law) is God’s power.

  • JonSLC

    “God’s power FOR SALVATION,” that is. The law is God’s power, too. Just not power he uses to bring freedom and life.

  • JonSLC

    “God’s power FOR SALVATION,” that is. The law is God’s power, too. Just not power he uses to bring freedom and life.

  • Shane A

    Dr. Veith, I heartily appreciated your post; it reminds me of Charles Williams’s phrase “holy fact”. At worst, these sort of “are you really saved?” messages allow the implosion of the soul: the damned quest to find salvation inside the self. Even if, theoretically, one were “unsaved” in the audience, they need to be pointed to the “holy fact” of baptism, the sacraments, the Church, and the Cross–not a internal experience.

  • Shane A

    Dr. Veith, I heartily appreciated your post; it reminds me of Charles Williams’s phrase “holy fact”. At worst, these sort of “are you really saved?” messages allow the implosion of the soul: the damned quest to find salvation inside the self. Even if, theoretically, one were “unsaved” in the audience, they need to be pointed to the “holy fact” of baptism, the sacraments, the Church, and the Cross–not a internal experience.

  • J

    Dr. Luther in the 21st Century on September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am Comment #11: “When salvation is … only evidenced by your works there is nothing left but doubt.”

    So what is the further “evidence?” Sts. James and Paul informs us of the relationship between faith and works. That is if there is no works, then faith must be dead. I sense that I’m missing something.

  • J

    Dr. Luther in the 21st Century on September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am Comment #11: “When salvation is … only evidenced by your works there is nothing left but doubt.”

    So what is the further “evidence?” Sts. James and Paul informs us of the relationship between faith and works. That is if there is no works, then faith must be dead. I sense that I’m missing something.

  • DonS

    Matt @ 17: Bingo! You said it perfectly. Topical preaching contributes to this problem of imbalance, because such pastors focus on what the congregation wants to hear rather than what God wants them to hear.

  • DonS

    Matt @ 17: Bingo! You said it perfectly. Topical preaching contributes to this problem of imbalance, because such pastors focus on what the congregation wants to hear rather than what God wants them to hear.

  • Shane A

    Furthermore, I’m always troubled by talk of the supposed “unsaved” Christian-apparents in the pews who never “experienced” saving faith. Seems to me like they’ve been experiencing it every Sunday. These individuals are baptized into Christ, partake of his sacraments, believe in the dogmas of the faith, but aren’t truly “saved” because they have not had a sufficiently genuine “conversion experience”? That rather sounds to me like we’re trying to make them earn their salvation.

  • Shane A

    Furthermore, I’m always troubled by talk of the supposed “unsaved” Christian-apparents in the pews who never “experienced” saving faith. Seems to me like they’ve been experiencing it every Sunday. These individuals are baptized into Christ, partake of his sacraments, believe in the dogmas of the faith, but aren’t truly “saved” because they have not had a sufficiently genuine “conversion experience”? That rather sounds to me like we’re trying to make them earn their salvation.

  • http://originalsoapbox.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/the-altar-call-is-a-counterfeit-sacrament/ Peter S.

    Shane, I’d put “genuine” in scare quotes too. How exactly do we know? This is an awfully subjective way to “assure” people of their salvation. Contrast with the absolute certainty of Christ’s effectual saving work on the Cross.

  • http://originalsoapbox.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/the-altar-call-is-a-counterfeit-sacrament/ Peter S.

    Shane, I’d put “genuine” in scare quotes too. How exactly do we know? This is an awfully subjective way to “assure” people of their salvation. Contrast with the absolute certainty of Christ’s effectual saving work on the Cross.

  • CRB

    Shane #25 said, “… talk of the supposed “unsaved” Christian-apparents in the pews who never “experienced” saving faith.”

    These folk who are trying to see faith, which is impossible as only God knows those who are His. We cannot “see” into one’s heart!
    It seems to me that such folk are Pharisees who are trying to judge something that God has not permitted anyone.

  • CRB

    Shane #25 said, “… talk of the supposed “unsaved” Christian-apparents in the pews who never “experienced” saving faith.”

    These folk who are trying to see faith, which is impossible as only God knows those who are His. We cannot “see” into one’s heart!
    It seems to me that such folk are Pharisees who are trying to judge something that God has not permitted anyone.

  • nowafonseca

    Dr. Veith, there is hope. If ANYONE doesn’t know about these guys, seriously. Check them out.

    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/

    @ Darrel Cox you stated that “What if members of a given audience have sat in church all their lives, but never actually been regenerated by saving faith?”

    How could someone possibly notice if someone else isn’t saved?

    Also you wrote “Water baptism does not save an individual”

    Yet scripture cleary states that Baptism saves. It is God’s promise to us united with water for salvation. Jesus is the Word. And Baptism is the Word united to water.

    @ J, you wrote “That is if there is no works, then faith must be dead. I sense that I’m missing something.”

    What works are you looking for exactly?

  • nowafonseca

    Dr. Veith, there is hope. If ANYONE doesn’t know about these guys, seriously. Check them out.

    http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/

    @ Darrel Cox you stated that “What if members of a given audience have sat in church all their lives, but never actually been regenerated by saving faith?”

    How could someone possibly notice if someone else isn’t saved?

    Also you wrote “Water baptism does not save an individual”

    Yet scripture cleary states that Baptism saves. It is God’s promise to us united with water for salvation. Jesus is the Word. And Baptism is the Word united to water.

    @ J, you wrote “That is if there is no works, then faith must be dead. I sense that I’m missing something.”

    What works are you looking for exactly?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @J Did James and Paul ever tell people to look at their works to prove salvation? Or did they point people to Christ and his cross? Romans 7:24-25

    The works that flow out of faith are not for our assurance but for the benefit of those around us.

    I can not help myself…
    @19 Have you really surrendered yourself, or have you just sort a kinda surrendered yourself?

    Darrel, your very statement is a source of doubt, simply because you made it all about the person. A person who struggles with the day to day reality of their sin will never have assurance for they have continuous proof they have not surrendered and can never surrender. Yet, a person can have assurance when they are shown a God who has worked out their salvation and made it known to them in very tangible means can have assurance.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @J Did James and Paul ever tell people to look at their works to prove salvation? Or did they point people to Christ and his cross? Romans 7:24-25

    The works that flow out of faith are not for our assurance but for the benefit of those around us.

    I can not help myself…
    @19 Have you really surrendered yourself, or have you just sort a kinda surrendered yourself?

    Darrel, your very statement is a source of doubt, simply because you made it all about the person. A person who struggles with the day to day reality of their sin will never have assurance for they have continuous proof they have not surrendered and can never surrender. Yet, a person can have assurance when they are shown a God who has worked out their salvation and made it known to them in very tangible means can have assurance.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @J Did James and Paul ever tell people to look at their works to prove salvation? Or did they point people to Christ and his cross? Romans 7:24-25

    The works that flow out of faith are not for our assurance but for the benefit of those around us.

    I can not help myself…
    @19 Have you really surrendered yourself, or have you just sort a kinda surrendered yourself?

    Darrel, your very statement is a source of doubt, simply because you made it all about the person. A person who struggles with the day to day reality of their sin will never have assurance for they have continuous proof they have not surrendered and can never surrender. Yet, a person can have assurance when they are shown a God who has worked out their salvation and made it known to them in very tangible means.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @J Did James and Paul ever tell people to look at their works to prove salvation? Or did they point people to Christ and his cross? Romans 7:24-25

    The works that flow out of faith are not for our assurance but for the benefit of those around us.

    I can not help myself…
    @19 Have you really surrendered yourself, or have you just sort a kinda surrendered yourself?

    Darrel, your very statement is a source of doubt, simply because you made it all about the person. A person who struggles with the day to day reality of their sin will never have assurance for they have continuous proof they have not surrendered and can never surrender. Yet, a person can have assurance when they are shown a God who has worked out their salvation and made it known to them in very tangible means.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    oops, sorry about double post.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    oops, sorry about double post.

  • http://lutheranvisuals.com Ken Ring

    I have also just completed reading “Christless Christianity” The author isn’t Lutheran but he is right on, highly recomend.

    The DCE at our church doesn’t question the kids salvation experience, but is very heavy on application which makes them wonder if they are really doing enough for Christ.

  • http://lutheranvisuals.com Ken Ring

    I have also just completed reading “Christless Christianity” The author isn’t Lutheran but he is right on, highly recomend.

    The DCE at our church doesn’t question the kids salvation experience, but is very heavy on application which makes them wonder if they are really doing enough for Christ.

  • steve

    “One kind tries to assure the listeners of their salvation in Christ, underscoring His grace and mercy and His atoning work on the Cross. The other kind tries to make the listeners question whether they are “really” Christians. (“Did you REALLY give your life to the Lord? Do you show the fruit of true faith?”

    Is this what happens when a call to the table is replaced by a call to the alter?

  • steve

    “One kind tries to assure the listeners of their salvation in Christ, underscoring His grace and mercy and His atoning work on the Cross. The other kind tries to make the listeners question whether they are “really” Christians. (“Did you REALLY give your life to the Lord? Do you show the fruit of true faith?”

    Is this what happens when a call to the table is replaced by a call to the alter?

  • Darrel Cox

    Sorry gentlemen, the Scriptures nowhere teach that water baptism, sacraments, or any of the sort brings one into right relationship with God. And nowhere did I intimate that an individual can “see” saving faith or has to “experience” anything. Jesus is the One who was quite emphatic about new birth being prerequisite to entrance into the Kingdom. Take it up with Him.

    More to the point: the Person of Jesus Christ alone saves, and it is received as a free gift by grace through faith. Add or take away from that and you are speaking from your own imaginations.

    If you have a problem with that assertion, your real problem isn’t with me, but with an orthodox teaching of Holy Scripture, the teachings of Luther, Calvin, and the classical consensual voice of God’s people down through the ages.

  • Darrel Cox

    Sorry gentlemen, the Scriptures nowhere teach that water baptism, sacraments, or any of the sort brings one into right relationship with God. And nowhere did I intimate that an individual can “see” saving faith or has to “experience” anything. Jesus is the One who was quite emphatic about new birth being prerequisite to entrance into the Kingdom. Take it up with Him.

    More to the point: the Person of Jesus Christ alone saves, and it is received as a free gift by grace through faith. Add or take away from that and you are speaking from your own imaginations.

    If you have a problem with that assertion, your real problem isn’t with me, but with an orthodox teaching of Holy Scripture, the teachings of Luther, Calvin, and the classical consensual voice of God’s people down through the ages.

  • JonSLC

    “More to the point: the Person of Jesus Christ alone saves, and it is received as a free gift by grace through faith.”

    Yes. How do you believe that God gives this free gift to people? Directly into people’s hearts, or using something as an instrument?

  • JonSLC

    “More to the point: the Person of Jesus Christ alone saves, and it is received as a free gift by grace through faith.”

    Yes. How do you believe that God gives this free gift to people? Directly into people’s hearts, or using something as an instrument?

  • Darrel Cox

    @JonSLC; the answer to your question is right in the quote you draw from me:

    The free gift of salvation [namely right relationship with God through Jesus Christ] is:

    “By grace [that is the grounds] through faith [that is the instrumental means].” This straight from the apostle Paul.

    I thought this was a blog somehow dedicated to a man who lived in the time period of Luther and the Reformation?

  • Darrel Cox

    @JonSLC; the answer to your question is right in the quote you draw from me:

    The free gift of salvation [namely right relationship with God through Jesus Christ] is:

    “By grace [that is the grounds] through faith [that is the instrumental means].” This straight from the apostle Paul.

    I thought this was a blog somehow dedicated to a man who lived in the time period of Luther and the Reformation?

  • Shane A

    Dr. Cox, you do realize that Luther believed in something like baptismal regeneration, right?

    From Luther’s Small Catechism:
    What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

  • Shane A

    Dr. Cox, you do realize that Luther believed in something like baptismal regeneration, right?

    From Luther’s Small Catechism:
    What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

  • Shane A

    Also, claiming that your position is “the classical consensual voice of God’s people down through the ages” is, frankly, baffling. Does the classical consensual voice of God’s people exclude all Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, and essentially anyone before Calvin or subsequent Protestants?

  • Shane A

    Also, claiming that your position is “the classical consensual voice of God’s people down through the ages” is, frankly, baffling. Does the classical consensual voice of God’s people exclude all Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, and essentially anyone before Calvin or subsequent Protestants?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @33
    You are woefully ignorant. Here is what Luther stated about Baptism

    First
    What is Baptism?
    Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

    Which is that word of God?
    Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

    Second
    What benefits does Baptism give?
    It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    Which are these words and promises of God?
    Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

    Third
    How can water do such great things?
    Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:

    “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8)

    Fourth
    What does such baptizing with water indicate?
    It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Where is this written?
    St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom. 6:4)

    If you want more about baptism go here http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=950

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @33
    You are woefully ignorant. Here is what Luther stated about Baptism

    First
    What is Baptism?
    Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

    Which is that word of God?
    Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

    Second
    What benefits does Baptism give?
    It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    Which are these words and promises of God?
    Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

    Third
    How can water do such great things?
    Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:

    “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8)

    Fourth
    What does such baptizing with water indicate?
    It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Where is this written?
    St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom. 6:4)

    If you want more about baptism go here http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=950

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    There are a lot of people who are thinking about “Christless Christianity” lately. I see many trying to get back to the truth of the gospel. That Christ has done it all,

    But many fail to realize that faith needs to ‘touch down’ somewhere. The rubber needs to meet the road. This is where the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion come in. Real, tangible events that we can return to…over and over and over again…where God acts FOR US.

    Sacrament-less Christianity leaves people drifting in the winds of their own feelings about faith…or whatever.

    Lutherans have a great deal to say about this…but the little voice of ‘reason’ tends to drown us out.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    There are a lot of people who are thinking about “Christless Christianity” lately. I see many trying to get back to the truth of the gospel. That Christ has done it all,

    But many fail to realize that faith needs to ‘touch down’ somewhere. The rubber needs to meet the road. This is where the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion come in. Real, tangible events that we can return to…over and over and over again…where God acts FOR US.

    Sacrament-less Christianity leaves people drifting in the winds of their own feelings about faith…or whatever.

    Lutherans have a great deal to say about this…but the little voice of ‘reason’ tends to drown us out.

  • little pitchers

    While, as brothers and sisters, there is a place for vigorous debate that is often passed over with an “agree to disagree” cop-out, lets be careful to be winsome.

    Thank you Dr. Cox for wanting to defend the integrity of Jesus’ sacrifice as the total of salvation. I think, regardless of everyone’s understanding of their significance, the sacraments were not brought up as a salvation-parachute but as examples of ebenezers. They are a comfort to those believers troubled by challenging messages to examine their hearts. I stand firmly behind the speakers who have troubled my heart lately with such challenges because I know how easy it is to know about God without it translating into knowing Him. I trust that through them God has called rich assets to the kingdom out of their seats near the kingdom. I also trust that the Holy Spirit has honored the speakers intentions by penetrating the hearts of believers, while safe-guarding their assurance of salvation with reminders to take hope in what God has done in their hearts.

    Dr. Veith has such compassion for young people and he is right that sermons must not antagonize them with doubt. Thankfully, I have yet to encounter such a sermon. I am nonetheless grateful for this very lucid and heart-felt contribution to a contemporary conversation.

  • little pitchers

    While, as brothers and sisters, there is a place for vigorous debate that is often passed over with an “agree to disagree” cop-out, lets be careful to be winsome.

    Thank you Dr. Cox for wanting to defend the integrity of Jesus’ sacrifice as the total of salvation. I think, regardless of everyone’s understanding of their significance, the sacraments were not brought up as a salvation-parachute but as examples of ebenezers. They are a comfort to those believers troubled by challenging messages to examine their hearts. I stand firmly behind the speakers who have troubled my heart lately with such challenges because I know how easy it is to know about God without it translating into knowing Him. I trust that through them God has called rich assets to the kingdom out of their seats near the kingdom. I also trust that the Holy Spirit has honored the speakers intentions by penetrating the hearts of believers, while safe-guarding their assurance of salvation with reminders to take hope in what God has done in their hearts.

    Dr. Veith has such compassion for young people and he is right that sermons must not antagonize them with doubt. Thankfully, I have yet to encounter such a sermon. I am nonetheless grateful for this very lucid and heart-felt contribution to a contemporary conversation.

  • http://matthewmaule.blogspot.com/ Matthew

    Thank you so much for this insight Dr. Veith. This has been an issue in the church that has really been burdening me.

  • http://matthewmaule.blogspot.com/ Matthew

    Thank you so much for this insight Dr. Veith. This has been an issue in the church that has really been burdening me.

  • Peter S.

    Whew, can we turn on a fan in here? The subtext is getting a bit heavy.

  • Peter S.

    Whew, can we turn on a fan in here? The subtext is getting a bit heavy.

  • Darrel Cox

    I am well aware that Lutherans (but not all) believe in baptismal regeneration (I guess the following should be added, “sola fide et baptizare”). I do not expect nor have the desire to sway that belief here (though it fails the test of the most basic exegesis of Scripture and was surely not taught in the second century (cf. 2nd Cent. “Didache” for instructions on baptism). I also know that the classical consensual voice of the Church does attest contra paedo-baptism. That does not mean all of God’s people–simply the majority voice from the first century to the present. But my reaction to this post really had nothing to do with any of those things.

    My initial thoughts still center on Dr. Veith’s initial post and how it is in fact being taken by some young people. I was chatting about this very issue with a close colleague of mine and he summarized it so well, I will bid this thread farewell with his astute observation:

    “The New Testament itself exhorts believers (or professing believers) to examine themselves:
    —2 Corinthians 13:4-6
    —2 Peter 1:9-11
    —the entirety of 1 John, which is largely a series of self-examination tests

    Ultimate soul-satisfying assurance only comes from looking away from yourself and to the risen Christ. Full assurance never comes from looking inward and discovering that all is well (because, as one Puritan wisely put it, there is always something in our repentances for which we must repent). But self-examination is always salutary if and only if it terminates in the Lord Jesus Christ. The regenerated man who examines himself sees the remnants of sin, the workings of grace, and need for more of Jesus. The unregenerate man who examines himself sees cosmic treason and cries out to Messiah to deliver him.

    The idea that one should never examine himself usually flows from a reduction of faith to intellectual assent or creedalism. Back in the ‘easy believism’ controversy, individuals likewise endorsed the never-doubt-your-salvation idea . . . . precisely because they stripped faith of its moral and regenerating content.

    ‘Doubt is the opposite of faith.’ No. Doubt is the opposite of certainty, and certainty (i.e., the absence of all doubt) is not faith. True faith always coexists with at least some trace of doubt.”

  • Darrel Cox

    I am well aware that Lutherans (but not all) believe in baptismal regeneration (I guess the following should be added, “sola fide et baptizare”). I do not expect nor have the desire to sway that belief here (though it fails the test of the most basic exegesis of Scripture and was surely not taught in the second century (cf. 2nd Cent. “Didache” for instructions on baptism). I also know that the classical consensual voice of the Church does attest contra paedo-baptism. That does not mean all of God’s people–simply the majority voice from the first century to the present. But my reaction to this post really had nothing to do with any of those things.

    My initial thoughts still center on Dr. Veith’s initial post and how it is in fact being taken by some young people. I was chatting about this very issue with a close colleague of mine and he summarized it so well, I will bid this thread farewell with his astute observation:

    “The New Testament itself exhorts believers (or professing believers) to examine themselves:
    —2 Corinthians 13:4-6
    —2 Peter 1:9-11
    —the entirety of 1 John, which is largely a series of self-examination tests

    Ultimate soul-satisfying assurance only comes from looking away from yourself and to the risen Christ. Full assurance never comes from looking inward and discovering that all is well (because, as one Puritan wisely put it, there is always something in our repentances for which we must repent). But self-examination is always salutary if and only if it terminates in the Lord Jesus Christ. The regenerated man who examines himself sees the remnants of sin, the workings of grace, and need for more of Jesus. The unregenerate man who examines himself sees cosmic treason and cries out to Messiah to deliver him.

    The idea that one should never examine himself usually flows from a reduction of faith to intellectual assent or creedalism. Back in the ‘easy believism’ controversy, individuals likewise endorsed the never-doubt-your-salvation idea . . . . precisely because they stripped faith of its moral and regenerating content.

    ‘Doubt is the opposite of faith.’ No. Doubt is the opposite of certainty, and certainty (i.e., the absence of all doubt) is not faith. True faith always coexists with at least some trace of doubt.”

  • Robin

    @9 I had the same experience as you.
    I grew up with this preaching and have attempted to commit my life to Christ too many times to count. The last straw was when I got involved with a college ministry who constantly strove to show us we weren’t really saved. One of the things they said were they wanted to show people who thought they were saved, really weren’t. Although this could be true, it could also be false. This type of preaching actually drove me away for a time and not only made me doubt my salvation but, I began to doubt the major points of the faith. A year and a half ago all I could pray was “I doubt you rose from the dead, please give me belief.”

  • Robin

    @9 I had the same experience as you.
    I grew up with this preaching and have attempted to commit my life to Christ too many times to count. The last straw was when I got involved with a college ministry who constantly strove to show us we weren’t really saved. One of the things they said were they wanted to show people who thought they were saved, really weren’t. Although this could be true, it could also be false. This type of preaching actually drove me away for a time and not only made me doubt my salvation but, I began to doubt the major points of the faith. A year and a half ago all I could pray was “I doubt you rose from the dead, please give me belief.”

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

    Right. To explain to the uninitiated, this is becoming a discussion of various chapel services we’ve had at my college. That’s not my intention or the point of my post. I am not objecting to “altar calls” and the like since those are in accord with the theology of some of our speakers and students, and we respect the range of positions we have. And I believe in conversion, as people come to faith for the first time. And I certainly believe in preaching both the Law and the Gospel. But I’m saying that, however one conceives how a person first becomes a Christian, what makes a Christian is faith in Christ. And we must be very careful lest we undermine a young Christian’s faith by sowing doubt in their hearts or by causing them to look to their works as the basis of their confidence, rather than the grace of God poured out in the work of Christ in the Cross.

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

    Right. To explain to the uninitiated, this is becoming a discussion of various chapel services we’ve had at my college. That’s not my intention or the point of my post. I am not objecting to “altar calls” and the like since those are in accord with the theology of some of our speakers and students, and we respect the range of positions we have. And I believe in conversion, as people come to faith for the first time. And I certainly believe in preaching both the Law and the Gospel. But I’m saying that, however one conceives how a person first becomes a Christian, what makes a Christian is faith in Christ. And we must be very careful lest we undermine a young Christian’s faith by sowing doubt in their hearts or by causing them to look to their works as the basis of their confidence, rather than the grace of God poured out in the work of Christ in the Cross.

  • The Lutheran Groupies (Wattmi and Max)

    Thank you so much for this post Dr. Veith. This has been a subject that we’ve been struggling with for awhile.

    For all those who have posted before me, I think the theologian C.F.W. Walther can help out a bit, his theses on Law and Gospel are very insightful. Thesis IX states, “You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you point sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law toward their own prayers and struggles with God and tell them that they have to work their way into a state of grace. That is, do not tell them to keep on praying and struggling until they would feel that God has received them into grace. Rather point them toward the Word and sacraments.” The problem with telling Christians who have just had their faith questioned that they need to pray harder and read their bible more is that you are turning the gospel into a work. The great thing about the sacraments is that they have nothing to do with what the believer does but what God does. Church ends up not being about what we do for God but what God did for us in the person of Christ on the cross. God comes to us in His Word, He gives us His gifts in baptism and communion. As for the sacraments themselves, 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt form the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” and Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (See also Romans 6:3-4) According to these passages baptism is effectual for salvation. We can depend on our baptism because of what God says about baptism, that it is effectual for salvation. Water was poured on my head, I consume bread/body and wine/blood on Sunday morning. I cannot doubt these gifts because my feelings and my doubts have nothing to do with whether they work or not.

  • The Lutheran Groupies (Wattmi and Max)

    Thank you so much for this post Dr. Veith. This has been a subject that we’ve been struggling with for awhile.

    For all those who have posted before me, I think the theologian C.F.W. Walther can help out a bit, his theses on Law and Gospel are very insightful. Thesis IX states, “You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you point sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law toward their own prayers and struggles with God and tell them that they have to work their way into a state of grace. That is, do not tell them to keep on praying and struggling until they would feel that God has received them into grace. Rather point them toward the Word and sacraments.” The problem with telling Christians who have just had their faith questioned that they need to pray harder and read their bible more is that you are turning the gospel into a work. The great thing about the sacraments is that they have nothing to do with what the believer does but what God does. Church ends up not being about what we do for God but what God did for us in the person of Christ on the cross. God comes to us in His Word, He gives us His gifts in baptism and communion. As for the sacraments themselves, 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt form the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” and Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (See also Romans 6:3-4) According to these passages baptism is effectual for salvation. We can depend on our baptism because of what God says about baptism, that it is effectual for salvation. Water was poured on my head, I consume bread/body and wine/blood on Sunday morning. I cannot doubt these gifts because my feelings and my doubts have nothing to do with whether they work or not.

  • Shane A

    Again, Dr. Cox, the Didache, if anything, refutes the modern mode of Baptists as it renders multiple modes of baptism viable, not just submersion. Lutherans accept the baptism of Baptists, but Baptists do not accept the baptism of Lutherans. The Didache makes no statement to either prove or disprove baptismal regeneration, frankly. Who is more in keeping with the Didache, I wonder?

    But the mode of baptism is, of course, totally beside the point of our disagreement: namely, that 1. Luther was opposed to baptismal regeneration, and 2. that the consensus of the Church is against baptismal regeneration. Both of these statements are, I think, demonstrably mistaken. That Luther obviously held to baptismal regeneration has been sufficiently demonstrated by a very simple survey of Luther’s writings. If all those who hold to baptismal regeneration are in opposition to Sola Fide, then you must logically condemn Luther as well. Obviously, Luther saw no contradiction between baptismal regeneration and Sola Fide, and neither do my good Lutheran brothers here.

    That the consensus of believers through time is against baptismal regeneration is, I think, easily dismissed. St. Augustine considered proper belief in baptism to be a central issue; he persecuted the Donatists for their denial of the effectual nature of baptism, e.g. “ex opere operato.” This emphasis on the effectual nature of baptism was held in the western Church up to and beyond Luther himself.

    I’m intentionally trying not to argue about the theology itself; that is certainly the source of disagreement, but I will leave it to others more knowledgeable than myself to comment on. But let us have clarity: the Church, through history, has held to baptismal regeneration. If you want to dismiss those who believe in baptismal regeneration, then you must dismiss Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, and Orthodox; you must dismiss all of medieval Christendom, Luther himself, the Anglican theologians, St. Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and all Christians except for those you identify with in the Early Church or in a fairly recent strand of Protestantism. In short, you must dismiss most of the Church.

  • Shane A

    Again, Dr. Cox, the Didache, if anything, refutes the modern mode of Baptists as it renders multiple modes of baptism viable, not just submersion. Lutherans accept the baptism of Baptists, but Baptists do not accept the baptism of Lutherans. The Didache makes no statement to either prove or disprove baptismal regeneration, frankly. Who is more in keeping with the Didache, I wonder?

    But the mode of baptism is, of course, totally beside the point of our disagreement: namely, that 1. Luther was opposed to baptismal regeneration, and 2. that the consensus of the Church is against baptismal regeneration. Both of these statements are, I think, demonstrably mistaken. That Luther obviously held to baptismal regeneration has been sufficiently demonstrated by a very simple survey of Luther’s writings. If all those who hold to baptismal regeneration are in opposition to Sola Fide, then you must logically condemn Luther as well. Obviously, Luther saw no contradiction between baptismal regeneration and Sola Fide, and neither do my good Lutheran brothers here.

    That the consensus of believers through time is against baptismal regeneration is, I think, easily dismissed. St. Augustine considered proper belief in baptism to be a central issue; he persecuted the Donatists for their denial of the effectual nature of baptism, e.g. “ex opere operato.” This emphasis on the effectual nature of baptism was held in the western Church up to and beyond Luther himself.

    I’m intentionally trying not to argue about the theology itself; that is certainly the source of disagreement, but I will leave it to others more knowledgeable than myself to comment on. But let us have clarity: the Church, through history, has held to baptismal regeneration. If you want to dismiss those who believe in baptismal regeneration, then you must dismiss Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, and Orthodox; you must dismiss all of medieval Christendom, Luther himself, the Anglican theologians, St. Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and all Christians except for those you identify with in the Early Church or in a fairly recent strand of Protestantism. In short, you must dismiss most of the Church.

  • Paul

    Do I sense a consensus that DCEs in the LCMS are unfit to teach doctrine? That’s my view. I sure hope you didn’t get the DCE who just left my congregation! But somebody did; and now they have all kinds of games and sports and trips instead of the Ministry of the Word. Sad.

  • Paul

    Do I sense a consensus that DCEs in the LCMS are unfit to teach doctrine? That’s my view. I sure hope you didn’t get the DCE who just left my congregation! But somebody did; and now they have all kinds of games and sports and trips instead of the Ministry of the Word. Sad.

  • larry

    “I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.”

    This is exactly what it does because its really preaching another law that is not the law and another gospel that is not the gospel. It wreaks of not understanding the true definition of sin, which is why it is a “scare tactic”. It attacks the “gross sins” and leaves in place the worse damnable “pious sins”, it is completely opposite of what Luther once pointed out concerning men having lost the true definition of sin whereby they become “Holy Blasphemers” rather than “Sinful Saints”.

    Such a message presumes that sin is the “moral” “gross” sins and is utterly blind to pious sin. What true damnable mortal sin is – is utterly incomprehensible to it, much less what original sin is. Thus, it wishes to tell the prostitute, “clean up your act or you are not a Christian” by its implied question, and leaves in place the holy blasphemer that says, “Baptist doesn’t save, forgive, give the name of God, give the Holy Spirit – this is not the body and blood of Christ”. In short it calls God a liar and His Words false, paints a picture of God, thereby, bearing false witness to Him, calls His name vain and denies the very essence of God being one’s God. After, thus having said in various forms and implications, “hath God really said to you…”, it spews its fallen Satanic words and law on the “gross sins”.

    But as Luther warned that one should not take ligthly Jesus’ word and warning that the tax collector and prostitute (gross sinner) will see the Kingdom of God before (or at all) the Pharisee (the clean sinner). As Luther points out concerning this ‘the harlot at least feels her sins and her conscience is constantly pained in and to herself (the real law of God functions this way written on the heart). But the holy blasphemer has granitized his/her heart against the Word of the true Law, ironically by coating it with this titanium false pious law and its pious glimmer.

    Many travel on the “clean side” of the broad road that leads to hell as a reality not hyperbolic statement. In fact many more travel this side rather than the “dirty side”.

    Luther’s Thesis #1 in the HD is apropos to such false preaching: “The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.” That last part, “but rather hinders him”, is the real nail in the coffin for such preaching.

  • larry

    “I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.”

    This is exactly what it does because its really preaching another law that is not the law and another gospel that is not the gospel. It wreaks of not understanding the true definition of sin, which is why it is a “scare tactic”. It attacks the “gross sins” and leaves in place the worse damnable “pious sins”, it is completely opposite of what Luther once pointed out concerning men having lost the true definition of sin whereby they become “Holy Blasphemers” rather than “Sinful Saints”.

    Such a message presumes that sin is the “moral” “gross” sins and is utterly blind to pious sin. What true damnable mortal sin is – is utterly incomprehensible to it, much less what original sin is. Thus, it wishes to tell the prostitute, “clean up your act or you are not a Christian” by its implied question, and leaves in place the holy blasphemer that says, “Baptist doesn’t save, forgive, give the name of God, give the Holy Spirit – this is not the body and blood of Christ”. In short it calls God a liar and His Words false, paints a picture of God, thereby, bearing false witness to Him, calls His name vain and denies the very essence of God being one’s God. After, thus having said in various forms and implications, “hath God really said to you…”, it spews its fallen Satanic words and law on the “gross sins”.

    But as Luther warned that one should not take ligthly Jesus’ word and warning that the tax collector and prostitute (gross sinner) will see the Kingdom of God before (or at all) the Pharisee (the clean sinner). As Luther points out concerning this ‘the harlot at least feels her sins and her conscience is constantly pained in and to herself (the real law of God functions this way written on the heart). But the holy blasphemer has granitized his/her heart against the Word of the true Law, ironically by coating it with this titanium false pious law and its pious glimmer.

    Many travel on the “clean side” of the broad road that leads to hell as a reality not hyperbolic statement. In fact many more travel this side rather than the “dirty side”.

    Luther’s Thesis #1 in the HD is apropos to such false preaching: “The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.” That last part, “but rather hinders him”, is the real nail in the coffin for such preaching.

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  • Helen F

    Larry,
    Thank you! That was superb!

  • Helen F

    Larry,
    Thank you! That was superb!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    It’s not an either/or. There is a time to use assurance and a time to use doubt. I liked C.F.W. Walther’s take on this one. He made it very clear that the minister who preached assurance to those who were not Christians was not doing his job as a minister.

    A minister’s sermon should NEVER give assurance to those who do not possess saving faith in Christ. If a man who is not a Christian is assured by the preaching of a minister, then that minister has not preached the gospel as he should.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    It’s not an either/or. There is a time to use assurance and a time to use doubt. I liked C.F.W. Walther’s take on this one. He made it very clear that the minister who preached assurance to those who were not Christians was not doing his job as a minister.

    A minister’s sermon should NEVER give assurance to those who do not possess saving faith in Christ. If a man who is not a Christian is assured by the preaching of a minister, then that minister has not preached the gospel as he should.

  • nowafonseca

    amen larry.

  • nowafonseca

    amen larry.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    You know, on one side, you need to warn people trusting in sacraments and dead works that faith saves. On the other, you need to let many of the same people that they can have assurance of their salvation if they truly do put their faith in Christ.

    I’ve seen both extremes, sometimes in the same preacher, sad to say.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    You know, on one side, you need to warn people trusting in sacraments and dead works that faith saves. On the other, you need to let many of the same people that they can have assurance of their salvation if they truly do put their faith in Christ.

    I’ve seen both extremes, sometimes in the same preacher, sad to say.

  • Mom Maestra

    Thankfulness for his death in my place and the grace he freely gives to his fallen brothers and sisters is what binds us. Doubt and self-condemnation are not of God. Thus when the preacher comits suicide because he can’t keep the facade of living the perfect Christian life is because he did not accept the grace of God and the mercies of God through his son Jesus Christ. He bought the lie that if he truly loved God he would follow all his commandments all the time. There was only one perfect man in history and he was the one who died so we could all live and so we would be blameless before God no matter what we had done or what we would do. We need to be ever so grateful, thankful, accept our fallen self through striving to live out his commandments, and know his grace and mercy.

  • Mom Maestra

    Thankfulness for his death in my place and the grace he freely gives to his fallen brothers and sisters is what binds us. Doubt and self-condemnation are not of God. Thus when the preacher comits suicide because he can’t keep the facade of living the perfect Christian life is because he did not accept the grace of God and the mercies of God through his son Jesus Christ. He bought the lie that if he truly loved God he would follow all his commandments all the time. There was only one perfect man in history and he was the one who died so we could all live and so we would be blameless before God no matter what we had done or what we would do. We need to be ever so grateful, thankful, accept our fallen self through striving to live out his commandments, and know his grace and mercy.

  • http://www.allisonwelch.com Allison Welch

    Whenever talk turns to who is saved and who isn’t I get this sinking feeling, like we’re circling the drain. Can’t (Shouldn’t?) we leave that up to God? We are made in God’s image. We are not God.

  • http://www.allisonwelch.com Allison Welch

    Whenever talk turns to who is saved and who isn’t I get this sinking feeling, like we’re circling the drain. Can’t (Shouldn’t?) we leave that up to God? We are made in God’s image. We are not God.

  • Mom Maestra

    I’m not willing to “not know” if I’m saved. For me to determine or accuse or rationalize about someone else’s salvation is heresy (in my opinion). Thankfully the bible has step by step instructions to be saved and those who are, if they understand the gift and the grace, know they are… forever.

  • Mom Maestra

    I’m not willing to “not know” if I’m saved. For me to determine or accuse or rationalize about someone else’s salvation is heresy (in my opinion). Thankfully the bible has step by step instructions to be saved and those who are, if they understand the gift and the grace, know they are… forever.

  • http://www.pastormattrichard.com Pastor Matt

    The underlining theological problem with preachers of doubt is that they actually believe the ‘will’ is free. The late Gerhard Forde once stated, “If you begin with the assumption of freedom, the preoccupation is always how to keep freedom in check, how to bind; But if you begin with the assumption of bondage, the preoccupation is always how to set out the word that frees.” The messengers of doubt are merely trying to stir up the individual so as to push them to actualize their supposed free will. “Do you really have fruits worthy of repentance?” …thus when doubt is delivered, the solution is to actualize the will and get better. The problem is that they are beginning with incorrect assumptions.

    Here are some thoughts from Forde on this:
    http://www.pastormattrichard.com/2011/03/implications-of-bound-or-free-will.html

  • http://www.pastormattrichard.com Pastor Matt

    The underlining theological problem with preachers of doubt is that they actually believe the ‘will’ is free. The late Gerhard Forde once stated, “If you begin with the assumption of freedom, the preoccupation is always how to keep freedom in check, how to bind; But if you begin with the assumption of bondage, the preoccupation is always how to set out the word that frees.” The messengers of doubt are merely trying to stir up the individual so as to push them to actualize their supposed free will. “Do you really have fruits worthy of repentance?” …thus when doubt is delivered, the solution is to actualize the will and get better. The problem is that they are beginning with incorrect assumptions.

    Here are some thoughts from Forde on this:
    http://www.pastormattrichard.com/2011/03/implications-of-bound-or-free-will.html

  • http://http://deadpastorssociety.wordpress.com/ Jay

    @webmonk – I am not sure that anyone addressed your initial question yet. I didn’t read through each comment fully. A good famous ‘create doubt’ message by Paul Washer could be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuabITeO4l8

    The doubt preaching really gets you fired up at first, but over time a steady diet of it proves that it eventually just leads to despair and really isn’t good news at all.

  • http://http://deadpastorssociety.wordpress.com/ Jay

    @webmonk – I am not sure that anyone addressed your initial question yet. I didn’t read through each comment fully. A good famous ‘create doubt’ message by Paul Washer could be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuabITeO4l8

    The doubt preaching really gets you fired up at first, but over time a steady diet of it proves that it eventually just leads to despair and really isn’t good news at all.

  • nowafonseca

    @ Mom Maestra,

    I disagree that “the bible has step by step instructions to be saved.” The Bible has laws to show it’s impossible to do even ONE thing to save ourselves. However it also has assurances that God has already saved us whether we realize that or not. “It is finished.” Rejoice!

  • nowafonseca

    @ Mom Maestra,

    I disagree that “the bible has step by step instructions to be saved.” The Bible has laws to show it’s impossible to do even ONE thing to save ourselves. However it also has assurances that God has already saved us whether we realize that or not. “It is finished.” Rejoice!

  • Jenn W

    Dr Veith! Excellent post! So very true. We MISS you! :) Never seem to have time to read the blog anymore either. :( Thanks for keeping it real! And OH so thankful for Faithful Pastors!

  • Jenn W

    Dr Veith! Excellent post! So very true. We MISS you! :) Never seem to have time to read the blog anymore either. :( Thanks for keeping it real! And OH so thankful for Faithful Pastors!

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  • larry

    “You know, on one side, you need to warn people trusting in sacraments and dead works that faith saves. On the other, you need to let many of the same people that they can have assurance of their salvation if they truly do put their faith in Christ.”

    This is wrought with false heterodoxy. To have assurance IF they “truly do PUT their faith in Christ” is faith in faith and idolatry, to whom the Law creates no assurance and thus drives to Christ. Secondly, to say it is false in “trusting in sacraments” is precisely to say “trusting in the Word” or “trusting in Christ alone” does not save.

    Why? What is baptism? Just plain water? No, the Word and name of God and it cannot be vain. As the apostle is clear in the Word of God “repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus, FOR the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. As Paul was instructed in Acts to get up and be baptized washing away his sins. As Peter says, “this baptism now saves you”, as the Trinitarian name of God can ALONE save of which is in part “Jesus” = “for He will save His people from their sin”, washed in the name of God by baptism. The name of the son is also Hosanna mean ‘save us now Lord’. Baptist where there is no other name under heaven by which men are saved. “By Thy name O’ Lord now save me” as the Psalmist sings in Psalm 54. Thus to say don’t trust the sacraments, baptism in this case is to say precisely “not to trust the Word, the promise of God, name of God, name of Jesus, name of Emanuel, name of Hosanna, name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. It is also to say such name in Baptism is thus vain and of no value violating the second commandment. It is thus declaring another description of God ‘bearing false witness against God’ the 8th commandment.

    Since Christ said take and eat this is My body and blood, the very body and blood crucified on the cross, given and shed for the forgiveness of sin…to say not to trust in this sacrament is to call Christ a liar, which is calling God a liar, which is saying, “hath God really said” which violates the first three commandments too and is to not fear, love and trust in God alone as God creator and salvation.

    Thus, to deny the sacraments which are His Word and name and body and blood is to deny everything of Christ and at length Christ Himself as salvation alone.

  • larry

    “You know, on one side, you need to warn people trusting in sacraments and dead works that faith saves. On the other, you need to let many of the same people that they can have assurance of their salvation if they truly do put their faith in Christ.”

    This is wrought with false heterodoxy. To have assurance IF they “truly do PUT their faith in Christ” is faith in faith and idolatry, to whom the Law creates no assurance and thus drives to Christ. Secondly, to say it is false in “trusting in sacraments” is precisely to say “trusting in the Word” or “trusting in Christ alone” does not save.

    Why? What is baptism? Just plain water? No, the Word and name of God and it cannot be vain. As the apostle is clear in the Word of God “repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus, FOR the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. As Paul was instructed in Acts to get up and be baptized washing away his sins. As Peter says, “this baptism now saves you”, as the Trinitarian name of God can ALONE save of which is in part “Jesus” = “for He will save His people from their sin”, washed in the name of God by baptism. The name of the son is also Hosanna mean ‘save us now Lord’. Baptist where there is no other name under heaven by which men are saved. “By Thy name O’ Lord now save me” as the Psalmist sings in Psalm 54. Thus to say don’t trust the sacraments, baptism in this case is to say precisely “not to trust the Word, the promise of God, name of God, name of Jesus, name of Emanuel, name of Hosanna, name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. It is also to say such name in Baptism is thus vain and of no value violating the second commandment. It is thus declaring another description of God ‘bearing false witness against God’ the 8th commandment.

    Since Christ said take and eat this is My body and blood, the very body and blood crucified on the cross, given and shed for the forgiveness of sin…to say not to trust in this sacrament is to call Christ a liar, which is calling God a liar, which is saying, “hath God really said” which violates the first three commandments too and is to not fear, love and trust in God alone as God creator and salvation.

    Thus, to deny the sacraments which are His Word and name and body and blood is to deny everything of Christ and at length Christ Himself as salvation alone.


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