Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Killer Lutherans (Part Two)

A few days ago I posted a section of dialog with A Roman Catholic on Killer Lutherans from 2005. I usually hate blog posts or web pages in dialog form, but i'm trying to track down some of the many discussions i've been in over the years.

Here is another snippet:

GW: I will presume in good faith that Luther would have been "intolerant of BTK"

Yes, Luther had a high standard of moral order. A cursory reading of any good Luther biography would bear this out (I suggest Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand (New York: Mentor Books, 1950). For instance, Luther did not think highly of those who promoted societal chaos, like the Anabaptists. Luther also believed that God had given government civil authority over those who broke the law. Luther says,

“…God has established civil authority, to sit in judgment not only on life and
death but also on matters of minor importance. Thus magistrates are to punish
the disobedience of children, theft, adultery, perjury, in short, all sins which
are forbidden in the second table of the law… God has instituted civil authority
and placed the sword into its hand that license may be curbed, lest savagery and
other sins grow out of bounds

Temporal government is ‘the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil’ (Rom.13:4). For since the world will not let itself be drawn by words so that general peace and harmony is sustained and wantonness prevented, severity must be used, and people must be kept from sin by force. If a thief will not quit his stealing, let him be hanged on the public gallows. Then one is protected against him. If a malicious scoundrel wants to harm everybody as he pleases and wants to beat and stab at the provocation of a word, let justice be meted out to him at the place of public execution. Then he will no longer disturb one’s peace; he will no longer beat or stab anybody. The executioner will nicely keep him from doing that.”

Thus, your “good faith” should rest in assurance. Luther would not have treated the crimes of BTK lightly. Luther worked very closely with the authorities (ah, too close at times). Indeed, Mr, Radar would have been executed, and Luther wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

GW: … some of Luther's quotes appear to suggest that the incongruence between BTK's profession of faith and his deeds would not affect his justification before God. That's what I'm trying to investigate.

A basic understanding of Luther’s concepts of law/gospel, the two kingdoms, the two kinds of righteousness, faith and justification are crucial to your endeavor. Perhaps spending some “off line” time at a good college library researching these aspects of Luther’s theology would help your investigation. For instance, I spend a lot of time reading books by Roman Catholics, simply because I want to know why they believe what they believe from their perspective. To understand Luther, you have to be willing to want to understand him from his perspective.

GW: …Now, you may judge that Rader's words were not "the words of a Christian who is saved by faith alone," but our source is merely a short newspaper excerpt.

Nothing in your original post from Radar suggested he was a Christian. Recall what you offered from Radar: “I expect to heal and have light and then, hopefully, someday, God will accept me.” These words by Radar betray a complete misunderstanding of justification by faith alone. One does not need to “heal and have light” before being accepted by God. One is accepted by God because Christ has bore the entirety of their sins, and they are completely justified by placing their faith in Christ’s work. They stand, not healed, but spiritually reborn in the light. This is quite different then what Radar has said in the quote you provided.

GW: What we do know is that Rader is a life-long Lutheran and that he professes to be a Christian.

Simply because one belongs to a visible church does not mean that same person belongs to the invisible church. This distinction was taught by Luther, Calvin, as well as Augustine. Augustine held the invisible church is the true and full number of the elect (there are some who are elect that are never Catholic, and there are some Catholics that are not elect). He argues the true Christian can be found inside and outside the true church, but the elect are to be found substantially within the church. Within the visible church though are those who are not Christian. I would place BTK’s Lutheran church membership in this category.

GW: That being the case, I presume that Rader believes himself to be "saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone." You may judge that Rader is not a member of the Church (because of his deeds?), but we should accept based on his profession that he *believes* himself to be a Christian--and we know that he believes this within the Lutheran tradition/sect.

I meet many people who are members of churches who are clueless about the gospel. I meet many folks who rely on their works, rather than Christ’s work. Simply because one claims to have faith doesn’t mean they have saving faith. For instance, James describes a real saving faith is a living faith. If no works are found in a person, chances are, that faith is a dead faith (c.f.James 2:17). James then describes a true example of dead faith: the faith of a demon. A demon has faith that God exists, that Christ rose from the dead- I would dare say a demon knows theology better than you or I. But is the faith of this demon a saving faith? Absolutely not.

GW: If Rader confesses his sins with true contrition of heart, his sins will be imputed to Christ and he will be accepted by God. If Rader does NOT repent/confess these sins with true contrition, he will be rejected by God. Men have to confess their sins on an ongoing basis in order to be "forgiven" of them and "cleansed from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1:9).

I am a Protestant, and this is not Protestant theology. It is true that Christians are to confess their sins, and indeed God will “purify us from all unrighteousness.” As Christians grow in sanctification, Christ works in our lives to reveal our sin and transform us into his image. 1 John 1:9 describes sanctification, not justification.

Recall Luther: If one is really to be honest about one’s sins, one should spend countless hours confessing them. And then about a minute after one is done, a new sin will occur. Read 1 John 1:8- “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Read 1 John 1:10- “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” See also Paul’s daily struggle with sin in Romans 7.

GW: Luther, in his "rhetorical flights," was prone to say things that contradict scripture. The admonition to "sin boldly" knowing that "No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day" is just plain bad theology and practice. You never admonish a person to sin boldly, and if committing one murder is wicked in God's eyes, committing 1000 murders is even worse.

Your opinion, not fact. Was prone? You’ve offered only one or two quotes from Luther’s written output (which was thousands upon thousands of pages- Collected works span 60+ volumes in German, 50+ volumes in English). The job of a reader is to learn to read authors in their contexts, and to be particularly aware of identifying such things like hyperbole. If you like analytical writing, stay away from Luther. Read Aquinas. Read Calvin. I actually glean much insight from Luther’s “sin boldly” comment, because I’ve taken the time to understand Luther.

GW: Sins are forgiven when one confesses and forsakes them (1 Jn 1:9). We're not Universalists here--there is no automatic forgiveness apart from repentance. So, if a professing Christian commits a murder, he *must* confess that sin with true contrition to be "cleansed from all the unrighteousness" accrued in the act of the sin (1 Jn 1:9). And if such a man then repeats the murder 999 more times, it shows that the prior repentance was not genuine at all. Therefore, such a man is not at all yet clean of his unrighteousness before God (and he has heaped on ever more unrighteousness with an additional 999 murders).

Luther admits that works *must* be present for "faith" to be "living" (that agrees with Catholic teaching), but then in the same breath Luther somehow says we are not saved by "works" (that's a contradiction).

Your comments reflect a misunderstanding of justification and sanctification. The context of 1 John 1 is not justification, but rather sanctifaction. Again you are taking a statement from Luther out of context, analyzing it in a way it was not intended. Luther would agree with you that a mass murderer who committed 1000 murders while claiming to be a Christian is not a Christian. There is nothing internally inconsistent with the quote from Luther on faith and works. Luther is describing saving faith, as opposed to dead faith. See James 2.

Protestants believe in total salvation by works…..the work of Christ who fulfilled the law in perfection. This work of Christ is imputed to me. I am saved by placing my faith in Christ and his work, totally. On the other hand, the gift of faith that has been given to me by God (Eph 2:8-9) is a living faith, that shows itself by works. None of those works I do contribute to my justification, at all. This is not Catholic teaching, I’m sure.

GW: If Christ taking away the sin of the world means that Christ takes away our *sinfulness* as St. John taught (1 Jn 3:5-7), then Luther's words about "even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day" is a contradiction. If Christ has taken away one's sins, one doesn't commit fornication and murder at all, much less a thousand times a day (2 Tim 2:19; Eph 5:3-5; 1 John 1:6, 2:3-11, 2:29, 3:5-12, 3:15, 4:8, 5:18.). So even if this was just a "rhetorical flight" by Luther, it is still poorly stated at best and bad theology at worst.

You left out this part of the quote: “Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner." Luther’s point is the infinite value of Christ’s atonement and how each sin we commit is dreadful, nothing more, nothing less. Question for you: your comments indicate you do not believe in substitutionary atonement. Is this true? Second, what does 1 Peter 1:17-21 mean then?

GW: Thanks, James, for your comments on that Luther quote cited above. Now, the only problem I have with the statement is that it appears to create a radical dichotomy between one's conscience and one's deeds. Do you agree that Luther is doing this? I mean, people *should* be bothered by their sins. It's part of examining oneself to see if one is in the faith (2 Cor 13:5; 1 Cor 11:27-32; 2 Pet 1:10-11). We know men by their fruits--fruits tell us something about the state of the tree (Lk 6:43-46).

Actually, Luther felt very strongly about the law. In Luther’s Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. In the Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments. In the reciting of the Ten Commandments along with the Apostles Creed, one hears both law and gospel at the beginning and ending of each day.

GW strongly implied that BTK expressed a belief in justification by faith alone, and held a strong saving commitment to this truth. I found that quite hard to fathom, but there was no way I was going to try to track down interviews with BTK in order to verifiy my hunch.I think Lutherans should be outraged by any who would link Luther's theology to some sort of justifiable serial killing because of Justification by faith alone. It definately didn't sit well with me, even as a topic to "discuss" with any seriousness. Simply, it provoked me. It's basically the same charge that Luther's Justification by faith alone is a license to sin. Roman Catholics began making this charge against Luther early in the Reformation. Thankfully, most modern day Catholic historians realize this is totally mistaken and slanderous. As i've read and studied Luther's theology and life, i've been shown time and again the theology of the cross. I realize that relying soley on Christ's work is easy to read and say, but very difficult for people to really grasp without the work of the Spirit.


L P Cruz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L P Cruz said...


The RC apologist mindset thinks that everybody is like them - ie everyone has a pope and for Prots and Lutherans they think it was Luther so if they can disparage Luther they think that the whole Prot church would burst in thin air.

Lutherans in the BOC teaches that a person who thinks he can have faith and at the same time purposely sin against conscience (termed mortal sin because it kills faith), without struggle should consider himself to have false faith.

I am outraged of course, but they hope that if Luther has been proven to be an evil man - people will abandone JBFA. I do not think so, because the JBFA was not a teaching of Luther but of Paul and the Apostles as the early Church Fathers also taught the same thing.