Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Rapture and Premillennialism

On today's program I did another discussion on Dispensationalism, dealing specifically with the teaching of a secret rapture and premillennialism. I demonstrated that the texts used in support of a secret rapture teach the opposite, and that Revelation 20 does not necessitate a premillennial reading.

Here is the program.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mega-Church Celebrity Culture

On today's program, I addressed the Mark Driscoll fiasco and the underlying issues of celebrity culture within evangelicalism. I addressed the recent controversies surrounding both Mark Driscoll and Ergun Caner, and how they reflect a dangerous ecclesiology inherent in contemporary evangelicalism.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Predestination, Grace, and Free Will in the Thought of St. Prosper of Aquitaine and C.F.W. Walther: A Comparison and Evaluation

An article of mine, "Predestination, Grace, and Free Will in the Thought of St. Prosper of Aquitaine and C.F.W. Walther: A Comparison and Evaluation," has been posted on Blogia: http://logia.org/blogia/?p=650

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An Example of Preaching on Sanctification

In light of the recent discussions, I would urge my readers to take a listen to one of my sermons which touches on the subject of sanctification. I will allow you to decide if such preaching is legalistic or pietistic. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

"The Lutheran Doctrine of the Lord's Supper" Now Available!

The latest volume in the American Lutheran Classics series is now available.

"There is no doctrine which distinguishes Lutheranism from the vast world of Protestantism more than the teaching of the Lord's Supper. The contention that Christ's body and blood are in, with, and under the Eucharistic elements in central to Lutheran identity. In this work, Henry Immanuel Schmidt defends the historic Lutheran teaching on this subject against some who claimed the name Lutheran, but adopted a Reformed view of the Supper. He deals with topics such as: The words of institution, the text of 1 Corinthians 11, the communication of attributes from Christ's divinity to his humanity, and the nature of figurative language in Scripture. This work is essential reading for anyone interested in learning about, or defending the Lutheran view of Holy Communion."

It can be purchased here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Francis Pieper's Doctrine of Sanctification and Good Works

One of the figures that is essential to examine in the ongoing debates over sanctification and good works is Francis Pieper. If one studies Pieper's Dogmatics, it becomes immediately apparent that he is not afraid of emphasizing the importance of justification and good works. He writes:

"The fact that sanctification in this life will always be imperfect must not be put forward as an excuse for the neglect of sanctification. On the contrary, it is God's will and the will of the Christian that he strive after perfection; he wants to be fruitful, not only in some, but in all good works. It is the characteristic of the Christian life and the will of the new man that he refrain from every sin. The Christian is eager to serve God in all good works...The Christian who does not strive to serve God alone is perilously close to losing his Christianity...Unsparing self-denial marks the Christian life." CD III, 33

After this, Pieper talks about how the drive to perfection (which is of course not achievable) should not cause us to despair, but should point us again to the grace of God found in the Gospel. It's something of a circle. We see our sin, look to the Gospel, then in light of that message strive to live holy lives. When we fail at leading such holy lives, we are once again pointed to the Gospel. But note that Pieper continually emphasizes our "striving," and not neglecting sanctification. In other words, the Christian should not simply be content to be "weak on sanctification," but should pray and strive for holiness. This is not to be done, of course, for the sake of gaining or retaining salvation, but because the Christian desires to live a God-pleasing life.

Pieper questions which evil is greater, "perfectionism or indifference to sanctification?" and he argues that both are equally bad. Pieper writes that "The Bible says to the 'Christian worldling': 'This ye know that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." (CD III, 34) It is clear that Pieper is concerned with both legalism and indifference to sanctification. Some in the debate today seem to think that legalism is the only real problem the church has to face, and that indifference to sanctification is almost a virtue, because it shows one's trust in justification.

Good works need to be preached, and one should strive for them. These works are to be in accord with God's law. Pieper writes that, "everything which the Christian performs in obedience to God's will is good and great, whether me prize it or not." (CD III, 39) He argues that "Christians should not be satisfied with having performed this or that good work, but they should become rich in good works...They should not sit and home and wait to be importuned to do good works, but they should go out and seek opportunities to do good works; they should be 'zealous of good works.'" (CD III, 47) Clearly, for Pieper, good works are not purely spontaneous, but one has to actually try and do them.

Preachers have a duty to proclaim the importance of good works. "Secondly, in urging members of their churches to become 'rich in good works,' pastors should not be deterred from doing this boldly and resolutely, without any fear or faltering, by the thought that this insistence on good works might crowd out its central position on the doctrine of justification without works. Only if one does not know the Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith will he be timid in asking for a multitude of good works." (CD III, 48) Pieper then makes the necessary point that encouragement unto good works should always be done in light of the gospel. In one place, Pieper urges: "In addition, God has instructed the teachers and watchmen in His Church to give attention not only to the quality but also the quantity of works performed by Christians." (CD III, 48) He cites Titus 3:8 for justification in doing so. What all of this makes apparent is that Pieper saw encouragement unto good works as a necessary part of the pastoral office. He did not view this as somehow minimizing the truth of simul iustus et peccator or the centrality of justification.

Pieper did not shy away from discussing the doctrine of sanctification and the importance of good works. These are central to the Christian life, the teaching of Scripture, and the pastoral office.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Explanation of the Luther Chapter in my Book

Since the recent discussion has erupted over my book, some have attempted to see my Luther chapter as somehow an attempt to give an extensive treatment of Luther's doctrine of justification. This relies on a misunderstanding of the purpose of the book. I will explain the reasons why this chapter was written, and exactly what argument is being made.

The book is on the New Perspective on Paul's claims regarding historical theology. The two areas I am addressing are 1. The NPP view of Luther as a purely forensic theologian whose sole concern is the distinction between law and gospel, and 2. The claim that Augustine changed the church's reading on Paul as if the pre-Augustinian church was not concerned about individual salvation.

The first chapter in this volume is not intended to be an extensive treatment of Luther's theology, nor of his doctrine of justification. Rather, it is an attempt to argue that Luther held to a more multifaceted soteriology than he is often given credit for. Yes, Luther held to forensic justification, the imputation of righteousness, etc. However, that is not central to the argument of this chapter because that is a given. I am not asking if Luther's view is forensic, but if Luther's view is only forensic. I use Mannermaa to argue that there is an element of union with Christ inherent in Luther's theology of justification as expounded upon in his Galatians commentary. I do not consider myself as part of the New Finnish School of Luther interpretation, because I think they downplay the forensicism inherent in Luther's theology, and they tend not to make a careful enough distinction between the early and late Luther. I make the point in this chapter that the early Luther can often speak of justification as a process, and that he sometimes conflates justification and sanctification; the later Luther is more careful, as forensic language becomes more predominant in his thought. However, whatever issues the Finnish school has, they have brought an element of Luther's thought to the forefront which has often been neglected: union with Christ. For Luther, Christ is present in faith itself, and Christ is in a vital personal union with one who believes. Though this union is not identical to justification for Luther, they are intimately related concepts which should not be severed from one another. 

There has been a long debate in Pauline studies over whether the apostle's soteriology is forensic or participationist. Is it based on imputation of Christ's righteousness, or mystical participation in Christ? I am trying to show that in both Luther, and the fathers, this is a false dichotomy. For Luther, salvation includes legal terminology, imputed righteousness, etc. It also includes participation in Christ, and union with God. The legal aspects of Paul's soteriology are then shown to have been prominent in both Clement of Rome and the Epistle to Diognetus. The participationist motifs are prominent in both Ignatius, and Justin Martyr. 

The whole argument is that the manner in which the NPP has interpreted Paul is not in line with the earliest interpreters; the way in which Luther has interpreted Paul, however,  is consistent with Patristic exegesis. Though one would be wrong to label the fathers consistent Lutherans, the reading Luther has of Paul is more thoroughly grounded in Patristic exegesis and theology than is the NPP.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Response to Donavan Riley's "Review" of my Book

A review of my book was recently posted on Blogia by pastor Donavan Riley. It can be found here. Normally such a scathing and dishonest review would not be worth responding to, but due to the fact that the word about this seems to have gotten around, I have chosen to do so.

Riley accuses me of "pietism and radical spiritualism" in the second paragraph of his review, but fails to define either of those terms or cite an instance in my work where that is indeed the case. In fact, there are no citations of my book in the review at all. Riley chose to focus on one specific chapter of the book, rather than the entirety of my argument, and consequently attacks my view as somehow connected with Schwenkfeld. 

The heart of Riley's argument is that: "Leaning on the Finns for his critique of the New Perspective on Paul, Cooper ends up launching a similar attack on forensic justification. He argues for an essential form of justification, an ontological change in believers." 

This was certainly a surprise to me, as I hadn't realized myself to be one who disagrees with forensic justification! The purpose of my discussion of forensic/participationist soteriological motifs in Luther's theology was not to negate the historic Lutheran understanding of justification as forensic, but to argue that in Luther's theology, forensic and participationist categories are not mutually exclusive. I write in the book: "Mannermaa's contention that ontological union is part of what Luther means when discussing the concept of justification seems to be contradicted by several statements of Luther. Though they are connected concepts, Luther often distinguishes between ontological union and justification" (P.61). Justification is a forensic declaration which includes the imputation of Christ's righteousness. 

What I argue in the book is that for Luther, ontological union precedes justification. That does not mean that ontological union is justification. This statement may be controversial, as the general ordo salutis in Lutheranism has placed mystical union after justification rather than vice versa. However, I am not alone in arguing this point, as Kurt Marquart argues the same way in his article, "Luther and Theosis." There is also some precedent for this in the Lutheran dogmaticians, as David Hollaz argues that union can in some sense be said to be prior to justification. Schmid writes:

"According to another mode of considering it, it can be said that union precedes justification, inasmuch as faith precedes justification ; and in faith as the organ, by which the union is effected, its beginning is already presupposed. Therefore Holl. (933), after consenting to this view, adds: 'Although the mystical union, by which God dwells in the soul as in a temple, may, according to our mode of conception, follow justification in the order of nature, it is however to be acknowledged that the formal union of faith, by which Christ is apprehended, put on, and united with us, as a mediator and the author of grace and pardon, logically precedes justification. For faith is imputed for righteousness, so far as this receives the merit of Christ, and so unites it with ourselves as to make it ours.'" (Schmid, 497)

It is to be noted that I am not speaking of the mystical union by which believers grow in virtue and love when I am speaking about union preceding justification. This was Osiander's error, which identified the justification with growth in grace. Rather, what I am referring to is the fact that the believer has to be united to Christ in order to receive his righteousness. I have to be "in Christ," in order for God to declare me justified.

Riley further critiques the book writing: "What Luther does not seem to be up to in the Galatians commentary, since Cooper does not emphasize these matters in his book, is distinguishing law and Gospel, the theology of the cross, or the theology of the Word." The purpose of my book is to discuss Paul's view of justification as interpreted by Luther and the fathers, and thus I utilized the Galatians commentary to speak of one particular aspect of Luther's theology that is pertinent to the study. Nowhere have I argued that Luther's theology of the Word or law and gospel are not central to his thought. Clearly, they are. Of course, I was not writing a treatise on the major themes of Luther's Galatians commentary. 

Riley argues again: "Schwenkfeld was the one to start talking among Lutherans about “participation” in Christʼs glorified humanity, or having a union with “heavenly flesh.” This is the very thing the Finns and Cooper are trying to connect to the early fathers and Luther via the tradition of theosis. Theosis is, in essence, enthusiasm, which grasps for God outside the Word, deep in the flesh (logos sarkos) in which we can “participate” in divinity."

I have written a book on theosis that will be released next year. In that work, I explicitly reject the idea that one grasps God apart from Word and Sacrament. That is one of my primary criticisms of the Eastern Orthodox approach to deification. What I affirm is simply the historic Lutheran teaching of mystical union. 

The next point Riley makes is: "But where Cooper emphasizes increased holiness by divine law, there should instead be death and resurrection. Where he emphasizes ontology, there should be eschatology." First, the idea of increased holiness by divine law is not in the book at all. It appears that Riley is reading other things I have written (which don't teach that either) into this work, rather than actually digesting what is in the chapters. Regarding eschatology, I actually have a section in the Luther chapter titled "Luther and Eschatology," where I make the point that Mannermaa misses Luther's eschatological focus. It seems Riley did not read this chapter carefully.

He further claims that: "Cooper grounds his critique of the New Perspective on Paul by following Mannermaa into the Galatians commentary, where the latter emphasizes a theology of love which reflects, not Lutherʼs search for a gracious God, but Schwenkfeldʼs search for pure love, found finally in being formed in Christ himself as our complete and perfected holiness. Sin is then formulated as misdirected love. Faith is redirected love, when Jesus himself effects this in the Christian. Righteousness is an ontological reality." The theology of love that Riley discusses here is completely irrelevant to the purpose of my book and is not even mentioned here. This seems to be a description of a traditional Augustinian approach to sin and love that I do not hold to.

He then states that "This is routinely missed by Cooper in his book, who seems to think that being in Christ is a process of becoming less one thing and becoming (ontologically) more of another thing. In this case, the sinful human passing over into the holy divine." I would affirm, with Lutheran Orthodoxy, that the union with God that the Christian has is genuine and real. This grows throughout the Christian's life, but one is never absorbed into God so that personal identity is lost.

The final claim I want to examine, which is likely the most inaccurate, is where Riley writes:

"Cooper opens a way to argue that deification of human nature in Christ is a prerequisite for justification. Following the Finns allows Cooper to dance lightly around the confusion this then interjects into matters of glory-theology, faith and love, bondage of the will, simul iustus et peccator, and the works of the Holy Spirit."

I have never, nor would I argue that anything within the human person is a "prerequisite for justification." The only prerequisite for justification is the righteousness of Christ. I'm sure that such a theology might affect the areas of faith Riley mentions, but that is irrelevant to my own theology. 

Overall, the position Riley critiques is a gross caricature of my view. His review failed to use any citations, overlooked quotes which would disprove is misrepresentations, and he didn't even engage the argument of the book. The section on Mannermaa's interpretation of Luther is a small aspect of this volume, which is on the subject of the New Perspective on Paul and Patristic theology. Riley seems to have used this book as a means to expound upon his own problems with the Finnish interpretation of Luther, rather than actually engaging the text.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sanctification as Progressive in Lutheran Orthodoxy

People have often attacked the utilization of the term "progressive sanctification," as a strictly reformed or Wesleyan view. I have shown in the past that this concept is clearly taught in the Lutheran Confessions and the Pauline epistles. This teaching is also one that is taught in various Lutheran theologians throughout the centuries. It really is a given in Lutheran Orthodoxy. Here are some examples of Lutheran theologians using the term "progress" in reference to sanctification:

"Accordingly, constant progress in sanctification is the form of a true Christian life." Adolf Hoenecke,Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics III, 421.

"It is important to remember, however, that the word sanctification has aquired a definite and restricted meaning, and now refers to the progressive growth in holiness which follows in the life of the believer after his justification by faith alone." Joseph Stump, The Christian Faith, 276.

"Now it belongs to the very nature of life to develop, to increase, and to make progress. And it is this development or growth of the new life that we now wish to consider. It is called sanctification."- G.H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, 147.

"Justification being purely an act of God, is instantaneous and complete; sanctification being a work in which man has a share, is progressive." - The Way of Salvation, 148.

"Renovation [a synonym for sanctification in Lutheran orthodoxy] is therefore considered to be a continually progressive action both on God's part and on man's." Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 506.

"our renovation progresses from day to day." Quensdedt as cited in Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 506.

"Unlike Justification, Sanctification is gradual and has its degrees...Through this struggle the child of God constantly advances toward perfection." - Henry Eyster Jacobs, Elements of Religion, 202.

"Is Renewal or Sanctification instantaneous? The struggle as described in Rom. 7 very clearly points to a gradual process. In Col. 1:9-11, an increase of spiritual gifts is prayed for those who had already experienced a renewal (3:9, 10). So on the positive side." Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, 253.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Antinomianism Part 2

On today's program I continued the discussion from last week on antinomianism. I discussed antinomian tendencies within contemporary Lutheranism in reference to my recent post on the issue. I went through the quotes I provided and demonstrated how to correctly speak of this issue in a balanced manner. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Characteristics of Lutheran Antinomianism

The subject of sanctification, good works, and antinomianism has once again come to prominence in the blogosphere, and Gottesdienst has had a number of recent posts on this subject, utilizing quotes from the Lutheran fathers over against what are perceived antinomian tendencies in certain realms of Lutheranism. One of the things I have noticed in these debates is that one side defends the necessity of preaching good works, while others deny that antinomianism even exists within Lutheranism. Part of the problem is that antinomianism is a notoriously hard beast to define, especially since the manner in which the term is used today is not exactly as it had been used in Luther's time. But, for the sake of clarity on these issues, I think it would be beneficial to try and specifically identify what some of these antinomian tendencies are. These are all statements I have heard from Lutheran pastors, and so I guarantee they are not made up, as some seem to assume:

Sanctification is not a process, but is purely positional as is justification.

The believer is not the new man-Christ is.

The Christian does not cooperate in sanctification.

God's work of sanctification can never be evidenced by a changed life.

Pastors should not encourage people unto good works in sermons.

If you preach on sanctification, you are trying to go "beyond Jesus."

The Christian is utterly sinful, and his good deeds are as filthy rags, so that nothing other than his faith differentiates him from the unbeliever.

There are no rewards for the Christian's good works in heaven.

Lutherans should not worry about what is or is not sin, because Christian liberty negates it.

It is "unlutheran" to ask if a certain behavior is or is not sinful.

That the Christian does not in any sense cease from committing certain sins, because this is a denial of the simul.

Christians always do good works, but they are purely spontaneous, so we should never encourage people to do them, and they are not visible to us. In other words, good works exist, but we should never talk about them and we can't see them.

The doctrine of vocation is the only thing we can say about Christian living; there is no sense in which the Christian's faith grows, and holiness grows.

Because Paul's epistles were not sermon, we should never follow the gospel with imperatives as he does in our sermons.

These are, what I perceive as antinomian tendencies within Lutheranism. If you haven't heard these types of statements made: great! I hope you don't. But unfortunately, these ideas are out there, and are harmful to the church as they are completely inconsistent with our Confessions and Scripture.