Posted on August 23rd, 2008
There is a growing problem of antinomianism in contemporary Lutheranism. Rev. Paul McCain had a brief post about this on his blog, and we’ve commented on it here as well. “Christ does all good works through me,” they will say – and accuse you of false doctrine if you preach that the Christian does (and ought to do) good works. Such people find warm welcome in congregations that bill themselves as “confessional” and “liturgical.”
But do the Confessions teach that “Christ does all good works through me” (or the variant, “The Holy Spirit does all good works through me”)? Here’s what the Formula of Concord says (Epitome, Article VI):
Fruit of the Spirit, however, are the works wrought by God’s Spirit, who dwells in believers. The Spirit works through the regenerate. These works are done by believers because they are regenerate. They act as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward. In this way God’s children live in the Law and walk according to God’s Law…. The believer, so far as he is regenerate, acts without constraint and with a willing spirit to do what no threat of the Law (however severe) could ever force him to do.
As I read it, the Spirit does the works and the believer does the works. Together. The Spirit dwells in the believer, who freely cooperates. Both do the works. Which is why I find it a reprehensible doctrine to say that the believer doesn’t do good works, only Christ (or only the Holy Spirit – sheesh, make up your minds already!) does them.
It is a doctrine that becomes an excuse to ignore the Christian life. The typical formulaic “You’re a sinner; Jesus died for you; all is forgiven” sermon leads to antinomianism, where the believer is taught that he needs no guide and does no good works. You’re free to believe that. You’re just not free to call yourself “Lutheran,” much less “confessional” if you do.
Thoughts? Show me if I’m off-base. Please. I can handle it.