Monday, January 29, 2007

True or False -- Doctrinal Assertions

An assertion must be true or else it is false. If is true, it is always true. If an assertion is considered true some times and false at other times, then it is no longer an asertion.

Assertions are fundamental to Christian doctrine (such as, God created the heavens and the earth; Jesus was born of a virgin; Jesus rose from the dead; etc.). An example of a doctrinal assertion from the Lutheran Confessions is the Law always accuses (lex semper accusat). The phrase the Law always accuses is used nearly ten times in the Book of Concord (and only in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession).

While the phrase the Law always accuses is a doctrinal assertion, some people say that the law accuses only according to its second use (function), but not according to its first or third. With this exception, the statement the Law always accuses is no longer true. On several occasions, I have asked where this distinction comes from. However, no one has provided substantive documentation. So I remain at a loss as to the origin and necessity of this distinction.

If someone says "the law always accuses, except...," then he in essence denies the doctrinal assertion that the law always accuses. This is very confusing.

11 comments:

Paul T. McCain said...

Gary, I've not heard anyone say, or write, that the Law only accuses in its second use. I believe you have misheard, or misread, comments and are assuming this has been said, but it has not.

What I have heard it said, and I myself have said, that the Law always accuses, but it does not ONLY accuse. That's a key distinction to keep clear in this discussion. Scaer makes that point clear as well in his paper you posted. And thanks for pointing to both of these papers.

Lutheran Enigma said...

Marquart writes, "It is true that the Law 'always accuses.' But this refers to the chief, or second use of the law, which cannot be separated but must be distinguished from the third use" (p. 3).

Scaer writes, "...the Law's accusatory function (Second Use)..." (p. 5).

If I have misread or misheard, then the writers have certainly mis-written or mis-spoke.

Lutheran Enigma said...

PTM wrote: What I have heard it said, and I myself have said, that the Law always accuses, but it does not ONLY accuse.

I'm concerned by that statement as well, because the confession do state that the "law only accuses" (Ap IV.257; XII.34).

I think this "only" and "always" distinction could be a confusion of the nature and function of the law and am looking into this and thinking it through (for example, its nature is to accuse; its function is three-fold, curb, mirror, rule).

Paul T. McCain said...

Gary, ok, I see where you are misreading Marquart.

Yes, the phrase, "lex semper accusat" is used in the Apology to describe the Law according to its second use, but this is not to suggest that Marquart, or our Confesions, are restricting the accusatory function of the law *only* to the second use.

The Formula is quite clear on the three functions of the Law, as it is used by the Holy Spirit.

But, I can see how this might sound to you like Marquart is saying that the Law ONLY accuses ONLY in its second use, but this is not what he is saying.

I would recommend that you not restrict the Lutheran Confessions' teaching about the Law to the Apology. The Formula is very clear that the Law is not ONLY accusatory.

When it says that the Law is ONLY accusing in the Apology, this is said in context of the Law in its second function, which, is only that of accusing us of sin.

The Formula however makes it clear that Law's *only* function or use is not only accusing, but also guiding and instructing.

Aaron said...

Pastor Gehlbach,

In the FC-SD, it seems to me that the section on the Third Use is saying that the Law is necessary for believers, in this life (because the old man remains), in order that we might have a "standard" by which to know what a "godly life" is. To wit, "the Law of God is useful . . . that, when they have been born anew by the Spirit of God, converted to the Lord, and thus the veil of Moses has been lifted from them, they live and walk in the law . . . "

But in this use, it must accuse, because even in teaching the Christian man, the Third Use is revealing the depravity of the old man, whose presence makes such teaching necessary.

"But since believers are not completely renewed in this world, but the old Adam clings to them even to the grave, there also remains in them the struggle between the spirit and the flesh. Therefore they delight indeed in God's Law according to the inner man, but the law in their members struggles against the law in their mind; hence they are never without the Law, and nevertheless are not under, but in the Law, and live and walk in the Law of the Lord, and yet do nothing from constraint of the Law."

Yet in the Third Use the Law does is teach—the rule informs the mind. It "prescribes to believers good works." It is necessary that we be taught good works, or else the old Adam within will deceive us into "imagining" what good works are ("a holiness and devotion of their own"). But when it teaches, it also/always accuses and demands repentence. It teaches good works "in this way, that it shows and indicates at the same time, as in a mirror, that in this life they are still imperfect and impure in us, so that we must say with the beloved Paul, 1 Cor. 4, 4: I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified."

Again, the fact that the "lex semper accusat" doesn't stop St. Paul from "exhorting the regenerate to good works." He just does so in such a way that he "recognizes" that his "good works are imperfect and impure."

Paul T. McCain said...

Gary, a pastor posted a comment on my blog site that I would really like to hear your response to. I found his remarks to be intriguing.

1. I don't beleive it can be much simpler than the First Petition of the Lord's Prayer and its meaning. How can we "teach God's Word in its truth and purity" and then teach our people to "lead God pleasing lives" if we cannot preach sanctification?

2. I certainly do not believe that St. Paul had a problem proclaiming the Gospel and then diving right into his great "therefores." If Paul can say "Christ died for your sins, therefore you will respond by . . . " why can't we do the same?

Carl said...

Is not the outcome of the Christian
life "good works"? What person who
claims to believe that Christ died for his sins and rose again would say, when confronted with God's law (2nd use) "Well, I don't pay much attention to that. All I know is, Jesus loves me."?! Such a person, it would be feared is not a Christian, despite his assertions otherwise.
OTOH, what person who claims to believe the Gospel and hearing that "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" would say, "Well, *I* know the works that I need to do and here's what I've worked up, so that I can impress God with them and be saved"
Must not the whole point of this discussion always return to what Christ has done? Is it not *His*
work that matters and is always the motivation for the believer, who does not look at his own works, but to Christ, who provides the only means of us doing any good works through the forgiveness He gives? John 15:5!

Paul T. McCain said...

No, actually, the point of the discussion is whether or not it is appropriate for a pastor, when he is preaching, to exhort the regenerate to good works and then to teach and explain what those works are that we are to be walking about in.

Some seem to beleive that this only can/should happen as the pastor is condemning the sin of his congregants, but never any of the kind of "therefore" exhortations we read about in Heb. 12:2; Rom. 12, etc. etc.

But this theory that since the law alway accuses, the pastor must never preach/teach it in a "third use" fashion has no basis in Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions or in any of the Lutheran theologians of the 16th, 17th centuries and not in our own LCMS founding fathers.

Carl said...

Yes, Paul, I hear what you're saying about the preaching the 3rd use. This should indeed be done when the text calls for it, rather than *forcing* it into the text. Also, I believe that the "therefore" must be clearly connected to the work of the Holy Spirit as He empowers the believer *through* the forgiveness received because of Christ. That's all I'm saying. In other words, the "therefore" should not be tied in with some "you have to" talk, but, rather, "you get to" talk.

Lutheran Enigma said...

PTM wrote: I would recommend that you not restrict the Lutheran Confessions' teaching about the Law to the Apology. The Formula is very clear that the Law is not ONLY accusatory.

If the Formula indicates that the law is not only accusatory and the Apology specifically asserts that 'the law only accuses,' how is one to approach this apparent contradiction?

My concern is that what you have said here and on your blog place the Formula and Apology at odds with each other. That is an untenable situation to me.

-----

PTM wrote: I've not heard anyone say, or write, that the Law only accuses in its second use.

Then PTM later wrote: When it says that the Law is ONLY accusing in the Apology, this is said in context of the Law in its second function, which, is only that of accusing us of sin.

Paul, what am I missing here? You say you've never heard what you later assert.

-----

Because I cannot accept that the Formula and Apology disagree, I must seek to determine how they are complementing each other.

First, I am beginning to think that the Apology is not speaking of the law's function but of its nature, or perhaps more properly its effect.

Thus, the Formula's writers are speaking of how the Spirit uses the law to bring about the accusing effect whether by a curb, mirror, or guide.

-----

Paul, I believe the major dispute is not about whether there is a 3rd use of the law, but how its function is accomplished. You appear to contend that a preacher can preach the 3rd use distinctly from the 2nd and 1st. I contend that the preacher must preach the law and the Spirit will bring about its appropriate use in each individual hearer.


Speaking for myself, I am certain there are times when I am simultaneously in need of all three uses, because on this side of heaven my sinful flesh clings to me (the hypocrite, the new man, and the sinner-saint).

That's all for now.

Anonymous said...

The Law always accuses, but according to the third use the accusation lies, not against the sinner, but against Christ on the cross, freeing the "inner man" to "delight in the Law of God" (Rom.7:22)