Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Luther Coined the Term "Antinomian?

I came across an odd Luther-related factoid: allegedly Luther actually coined the word "antinomianism".

This one popped up in a CARM thread which stated: "Luther actually coined the word 'Antinomianism' to describe Agricola's beliefs."  Wikipedia states it's "a term coined by Martin Luther", so regardless if it's true or not Wikipedia will guarantee it will travel all over cyberspace as undisputed fact.

There's also a few books mentioning it. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states, "In fact, it was Luther who actually coined the word antinomianism in his theological struggle with his former student, Johann Agricola." The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell states, "The word was coined in the sixteenth century to denote the peculiar opinions of John Agricola and his followers in regard to the Law." The old Catholic Encyclopedia begins its entry on antinomianism  by stating,
"The heretical doctrine that Christians are exempt from the obligations of moral law. The term first came into use at the Protestant Reformation, when it was employed by Martin Luther to designate the teachings of Johannes Agricola and his sectaries..."
I have to admit I've never heard this one before. I am familiar with Luther's writings against Agricola (in fact, a volume of these writings not part of the LW set can be purchased here). Of course the concept behind the term can be traced back to troubles in the early church.  I assume it's possible Luther came up with the term, but I'd be interested in seeing some better proof from better sources.

35 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

James,

Did Luther believe in baptismal regeneration?

Unknown said...

That is a stupid question, TuaD, considering your constant rampages against the concept over on Gene Veith's blog. Anyone familiar enough with Lutheran Confessions, or even just some of the basic writings of Luther himself, would know Luther taught baptismal regeneration. Why exactly are you trying to derail the subject at hand with a needless question like that when even just a simple wikipedia search or reading the section on Baptism in the Small Catechism (texts copies of which can easily be found online at various places a google search would take you to) would answer your question? But more than likely you are more trying to derail the thread so you can go on your normal rants about the doctrine...if that is the case, please refrain so actual discussion of the topic at hand can take place.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thank you. So Luther taught baptismal regeneration. And he observed or even coined the term "antinomianism."

Did Luther believe that someone could have so much antinomianism that they could lose their baptismal regeneration?

Unknown said...

*laughs*

Can't even ask a question without making it lead to your normal rants, can ya?

I am bowing out here. Greater minds than mine over at Veith's blog have tried to reason with you over your patronizing rhetoric on the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration over there. You neither care about what they have said or anything I have to say about the doctrine here. Your point is not to discuss the topic, but lampoon and attack the doctrine without care to either the nuanced position of the doctrine or the biblical foundations Lutherans derive it from. I will refrain from further cluttering of this discussion with completely off-topic comments, even if you will continue to attempt to troll every chance you get.

Everyone else, please remember, only you can prevent trolls being fed.

Justin (owner of the previous Unknown post)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Justin,

Aren't you the one who's ranting?

Anyways, could you put aside your emotionalism and answer the following question:

Did Luther believe that someone could have so much antinomianism that they could lose their baptismal regeneration?

Martin Yee said...

Hi James,

Thanks for this enlightening post.
It will be interesting to trace if Luther coined this term.

Martin Yee

Martin Yee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

*sigh*

I am gonna kick myself for this, because I know where this is gonna go, but ok, even though I said I was not gonna play your game, here we go...

The way I understand it (and take with this the understanding, I am just a little over a year out of the Catechumenate, so I could be giving a bad description simply out of need for further study), it is not the antinomianism in and of itself that causes one to lose their salvation, the antinomianism would be a symptom of a loss of their faith and giving into the constant harassing of the Old Man and shipwrecking your faith rather than going back to your baptism through repentance and looking to God for the forgiveness of sins, even in the midst of the sins we commit as Christians because of the attack of the Old Man within us. Just as we would say that a man can be regenerated by the very Word of God preached and proclaimed, and fall away.

Baptism is a means, just like God's Word spoken to another, for the purpose of regeneration. Just like we would say that forgiveness is given us in both the Sacraments (the Lord's Supper and Baptism) and the Word. There is not a single means through which God acts through to give us his gifts.

Martin Yee said...

The footnote in the Wikipedia article traced it to an article written by Augustus Lawrence Graebner in the Luther Cyclopedia published in 1899. Graebner also has a book published by Concordia Piblishing House in 1892 on American Lutheran Church history, see http://openlibrary.org/authors/OL6024849A/Augustus_Lawrence_Graebner

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Me: "Did Luther believe that someone could have so much antinomianism that they could lose their baptismal regeneration?"

Justin "it is not the antinomianism in and of itself that causes one to lose their salvation, the antinomianism would be a symptom of a loss of their faith and giving into the constant harassing of the Old Man and shipwrecking your faith"

So are Lutherans saying that baptismal regeneration can be, and sometimes is, a temporary thing? After all, if a baptized Lutheran loses their faith and gives into the "constant harassing of the Old Man" and apostasizes, then they're no longer regenerate, are they?

An apostate Lutheran, even though they've been baptized, is no longer regenerate. Ergo, their original baptismal regeneration was of a temporary nature. Yes?

Unknown said...

TuaD,

Like I said, I could be giving a incorrect picture of of doctrine out of ignorance, but from what I understand regeneration would leave an indelible mark that until death can always reassert itself and bring the person back to faith. So even an apostate can return to their faith, but one that never does the regeneration would be temporary, so to speak. Regeneration "sticks" only as long as the means through which God provides it life, which is faith, is active in the individual, but the mark of regeneration will always be there even if faith dies in the person the seed is in, and will become active again the moment faith is present.

Justin

Unknown said...

Little note on my last comment since I may have been a little unclear...

"regeneration would leave an indelible mark that until death can always reassert itself and bring the person back to faith"

That should really read, "person back to salvation"...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Justin: "So even an apostate can return to their faith, but one that never does the regeneration would be temporary, so to speak."

Within Lutheran theology, that's consistent.

So a baptismally regenerated Lutheran could, with loss of faith in the end, die as a baptized unregenerate Lutheran and go to Hell.

Unknown said...

TuaD: "So a baptismally regenerated Lutheran could, with loss of faith in the end, die as a baptized unregenerate Lutheran and go to Hell."


Yeah...a tree without water withers and dies.

And this is hardly news to you, as it has been stated to you multiple times by commenters on Veith's blog.

What is the point of constantly bringing Lutherans to the say the same thing over and over?

Justin

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Justin: "What is the point of constantly bringing Lutherans to the say the same thing over and over?"

(1) Not all baptized Lutherans are aware that a baptized Lutheran can go to Hell. They think their baptism saves them.

(2) The nature and understanding and teaching on the meaning of the theological term "regeneration."

Lutherans teach that it can be a temporal effect.

Others teach that regeneration lasts throughout life. And cannot be lost.

James Swan said...

Martin Yee said...
The footnote in the Wikipedia article traced it to an article written by Augustus Lawrence Graebner in the Luther Cyclopedia published in 1899.


OK, I found this reference. Upon a cursory skim of the entry, I don't see it anywhere saying Luther coined the term. I skimmed the entry quickly, but it appears to only describe Luther's battle with Agricola. Perhaps though it's there somewhere in the entry and I missed it.

http://books.google.com/books?id=H3NBAAAAYAAJ&dq=editions%3APvOVXlusAT0C&pg=PA18#v=onepage&q&f=false

James Swan said...

Sorry guys, you're free to duke this one out, but I'm swamped with some other things at the moment. I'm Reformed, so I don't have any problem not agreeing with Luther's view. It's another occassion to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Keep in mind, I have that same paradigm for everything In read (except the Scriptures).

I have addressed this subject from time to time, here are two examples, I'm sure a search of the blog would reveal more-

On The Sacraments and "Reason": Differences Between Lutherans and the Reformed

Luther: Only Unbelief Causes Damnation

For other sources, from a Reformed perspective, this article at least outlines Luther's view and contrasts it with a Reformed perspective.

For standard Reformed sources I would use to define baptism in Lutheranism, see

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (New Combined Edition) p. 477.

A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Revised edition), pp. 628-629.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

James,

Wow! That article by D. Patrick Ramsey was terrific! Thanks for referring me to it!

Very insightful and well-researched and well-argued.

Here's one passage (among many) that stood out:

"A related problem is that Luther’s view of the efficacy of baptism is in tension with his belief that baptism signifies and accomplishes full and complete justification. This tension is created by the fact that baptized people apostatize. Since people apostatize then either baptism does not save infants or complete justification is not given in baptism. Though both options are unacceptable to Luther, the fact that the work of baptism is not completed until death lends itself to the latter. Interestingly, in order to resolve this tension, later Lutheranism taught that what is given in baptism can be lost."

James Swan said...

Yes, it is a good article.

What's important to me, is not so much that Lutherans and Reformed disagree, but rather that we disagree with a correct representation of each other's views.

I admit that the Lutheran position on baptism is confusing, and I would further posit that a lot of Lutherans are confused about it as well.

Unknown said...

We Lutherans love tension. :)

To add to the tension you have already mentioned that comes from our view on Baptism and Justification, I would say you would need to add in a bit of tension from the Lutheran view of Election as well.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I admit that the Lutheran position on baptism is confusing, and I would further posit that a lot of Lutherans are confused about it as well."

Thanks James.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"We Lutherans love tension. :)"

There are different kinds of tension. Lutheran tension is not the good or helpful kind.

There are legitimate appeals to mystery and paradox. And there are illegitimate appeals to mystery and paradox.

And some folks sweep embarrassing stupidity under the rug named Mystery and hope no one notices.

Unknown said...

TuaD: "And some folks sweep embarrassing stupidity under the rug named Mystery and hope no one notices."

Does this accurately describe Lutherans?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Oh no. Lutherans never do that.

;-)

steelikat said...

TUAD,

"...a baptismally regenerated Lutheran could, with loss of faith in the end, die as a baptized unregenerate Lutheran and go to Hell."

I am no theologian but I am pretty sure that is not correct. An apostate Christian who was damned would be like the unregenerate person in the sense that he would die in his sins but it would still be incorrect to say that he is "unregenerate" since that would literally mean that he had never been born again:
"un" = "not;"
"re-" = "again;"
"generate" = "born."

There is nothing in the reality of apostasy and the possibility of losing one's salvation that should shake the believer's confidence, since he correctly knows with certainty that he is saved and trusts in Christ alone for his salvation. The apostate unbeliever would have good reason not to be confident of his salvation, but he almost certainly wouldn't care or believe in salvation anyway.

I cannot think of what that has to do with antinomianism and don't understand why you connected the two very different issues. I guess a Christian who went so far as to turn away from his salvation might turn toward some kind of "antinomianism" (and other errors as well) but that would most likely be the antinomianism of the libertine or hedonistic atheist who wants to do his own thing. Such a person would again have good reason to doubt his salvation but he would not likely be troubled by it until and unless God led him to repentance.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Steelikat,

I have read Lutheran pastors unhappily observing the antinomianism of some baptized Lutherans. These baptized antinomian Lutherans seemingly had the outworkings of a de facto belief in "Once baptized, always saved."

Unknown said...

That is a problem of the Lutheran going against the teachings of their own Confessions, not Lutheran theology itself, TuaD. The person who believes in some odd, nonconfessional teaching, such as "once baptized, always saved" is believing it contra the very Confessions they say they hold, not because of the theology taught within them.

Justin

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Justin,

TUAD likes to stir up controversy. He does it at Triablogue too. I just ignore him now.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

LOL! You should ignore triablogue too, schultz.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Justin,

Do you think instruction in Lutheran parishes, catechisms, and Sunday school classes do a good job in making sure in making sure Lutherans don't subscribe to the erroneous belief of "once baptized, always saved"?

Unknown said...

TuaD,

Just like any church body, the quality of teaching ranges from parish to parish, as does the level of Confessionalism. My particular church does quite well at maintaining a Confessional stance and pretty decent teaching.

Justin

James Swan said...

Just like any church body, the quality of teaching ranges from parish to parish, as does the level of Confessionalism. My particular church does quite well at maintaining a Confessional stance and pretty decent teaching.

Yes, that follows.

It's the same even in my denomination. The people in my church are supposed to know something called "The Three Forms of Unity." Do they all know it? probably not.

matthewmgioia@gmail.com said...

did Luther coin the term "born again"?

thank you!

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Jesus might have had something to do with its dissemination.

James Swan said...

Matthew is right.

Luther did not coin this term. It certainly appears throughout his writings.