Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why are so many Lutherans Seemingly at odds with Good Works? Part 1

Question:  Why are so many Lutherans Seemingly at odds with Good Works?

Answer 1:  Because the pietism expressed in American Evangelicalism causes Lutherans to flee to the opposite extreme (which is also wrong).

From rehashed social justice liberalism to Rick Warren to the charismatic movement to church growth to the Emergent Church, it is clear that many of the large movements within the modern American church all seem to be trending towards moralism and legalism.  It seems right and good to oppose these movements with a different stance and approach.  While this instinct is correct, the answer many Lutherans come up with is not the Biblical one and actually avoids the left ditch in the road by swerving to the opposite extreme and landing in the right (and equally incorrect) ditch of antinomianism.  If legalism is wrong then anti-legalism must be the answer to it.  This approach creates a false dichotomy which forces an either or choice where other alternatives exist.  The truth is that neither of these extremes are true.  The solution to both of these problems is the proper distinction between law and gospel as it is centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

To compound this problem, many converts to Lutheranism have been so hurt by being brought up in a brand of Christianity that seems to "take with one hand what was given with the other" where the gospel is offered and then it is taken away with works righteousness in the next sentence.  This also appears when the gospel is given as a conditional reward for past service or as a down payment on future service to God.  Neither of these are correct teachings of sanctification.  For those who have been hurt by these false teachings that the entire topic of sanctification has become a deadly third rail where many are made hypersensitive to works because of bad preaching and shoddy theology.  Anyone who begins talking about good works is instantly suspect.

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