Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 6, 2015

Blog Radio LogoListen to the lesson or download audio file. 

Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 2 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potters House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalogue can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Last week we did pretty well; we began with an introduction and completed the first two theses. Tonight, we begin with thesis 3.

Thesis 3: Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.

Human works appear attractive outwardly, but within they are filthy, as Christ says concerning the Pharisees in Matt. 23:27. For they appear to the doer and others good and beautiful, yet God does not judge according to appearances but searches »the minds and hearts« (Ps. 7:9). For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart. Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The thesis is proven in the following way: If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous. But the just speak in behalf of their works in the following way: »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee« (Ps. 143:2). The Apostle speaks likewise in Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins. In the third place, Rom. 2:21 states, »You who teach others not to steal, do you steal?« St. Augustine interprets this to mean that men are thieves according to their guilty consciences even if they publicly judge or reprimand other thieves.

In this third thesis, Luther declares ALL works of men evil. That includes the works of believers as well. Again, we come to a paramount tenet of the Reformation; total depravity does not only pertain to mankind in general, but also the saints. Even though the works of men appear “good and beautiful” (eerily similar to Plato’s trinity of the good, true, and beautiful), they are evil:

If the works of righteous men are sins, as Thesis 7 of this disputation states, this is much more the case concerning the works of those who are not righteous.

By the way, this is synonymous with the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11. Luther hints in this thesis in regard to why all the works of men can be deemed wicked: they are under the law, and no man can keep the law perfectly:

 But the works of men are the works of the law…

This is another way of saying that Christians remain under the law just like unbelievers, and since no person can keep the law perfectly, all bets are off. The Calvin Institutes 3.14.10 is an in-depth articulation of this idea. This is amazing because it’s right here where Reformed soteriology falls completely apart and turns the whole Bible upside down. Right here, you are looking at it. It’s the idea that Christians cannot perform a good work because they are still under the law and the law demands perfect obedience.

Also, amazingly, all of the major tenets of the Reformation gospel are in this one thesis. Let’s begin with Luther’s heart theology that actually laid the foundation for the contemporary biblical counseling movement; at least what came out of Westminster’s CCEF. An illustration can be seen below.

Luther cites Matthew 23:27 and Psalms 7:9 to make the point that the outward works of men are meaningless and God looks upon the heart. In this theology, the “heart” is the seat of faith. Even though the believer can do no good work; the believer’s heart (or faith) can be pure. What Luther proffers as we move along is a purity totally disconnected from works, and purity (faith) that is strictly an ability to perceive, and depending on the Reformed camp, experience the works of God completely separate from anything man does. If we pay close attention, we see these ideas in this third thesis.

For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart.

We must continue to remember that what Luther is saying about the heart is completely disconnected from man’s ability to do a good work. Why? Because everything man does is under the law and no man can keep the law perfectly. Again…

But the works of men are the works of the law…

Everything man does whether lost or saved is under the law, and since no man can keep the law perfectly; all of his works are condemned. The next part is very important:

Acts 15:9: »He cleansed their hearts by faith.«

The heart is cleansed by faith alone, and as we will see further along in our study, Luther believed that these cleansings needed to be repeated for ongoing present sin. But a little bit of thinking will reveal it here as well. If we are still under the law, we continue to sin against the law which necessarily demands a repurification. Especially since this sin is “mortal sin.” However,

But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins. Therefore they are mortal sins.

It boils down to this: if one thinks they performed a good work or are able to perform a good work, that’s mortal (subject to death) sin. But a faith that separates itself from works is venial (forgivable) sin which must be continually sought to receive ongoing cleansing. Luther elaborates on this more in the latter theses, but note how he uses Psalm 143:2 in this regard:

 »Do not enter into judgment with thy servant, Lord, for no man living is righteous before thee«

To not completely depend on faith alone, and thinking that you can do a good work is being under the curse of the law:

Gal. 3:10, »All who rely on the works of the law are under the curse.« But the works of men are the works of the law, and the curse will not be placed upon venial sins.

So there is no middle ground; one either depends totally on faith or on works. The belief that one can do a good work is tantamount to being cursed.

This third thesis is the very heart of the Reformation: no man can do a good work, and to believe that is pure faith apart from any good works. Again, faith and good works are separated. Now you know why Luther didn’t like the book of James. The premise for this is the supposed fact that believers remain under law which is a glaring contradiction to Scripture. The “heart” is the seat of pure faith apart from any works; faith and works are mutually exclusive throughout the life of the “believer.”

Thesis 4: Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.

That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53:2, »He had no form of comeliness«, and in 1 Sam. 2:6, »The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.« This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

This depravity, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11:31 says, »If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged by the Lord«. Deut. 32:36 also states, »The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.« In this way, consequently, the unattractive works which God does in us, that is, those which are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit.

Here we have the Reformed mainstay doctrine of mortification and vivification. This is a major Reformed soteriological doctrine along with double imputation and the vital union. But in regard to M&V, here it is folks—right here. This is probably where this doctrine is first introduced.

But first, let’s look at the Reformation’s single perspective on the law also in this thesis. Luther makes it clear that the supposed sole purpose of the law is to bring man down into despair because of his total depravity:

This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is »no form or beauty« in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6:9-10, »As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live.« And that it is which Isa. 28:21 calls the »alien work« of God »that he may do his work« (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3:2 states, »In wrath remember mercy.« Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his depravity. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.

Once we use the law, and God uses circumstances to bring us into despair, that is the mortification part, God brings about vivification, or exaltation. As you can see, Luther uses 2Corithians 6:9,10 to make the case for that. This suffering is actually the good works of God as opposed to the evil works that look good to man; ie., good works done by men whether saved or unsaved. Later in this disputation Luther will define that as the story of man, or the glory story, viz, good and beautiful works done by man, versus the cross story, viz, the works of God that look unattractive. As we will see further along, this is Luther’s very definition of the new birth. The Christian life is a perpetual death (mortification) and resurrection (vivification) cycle that continually repeats itself experientially from despair to joy.

This is also the basis of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine. Joy must be part of the salvation experience because it is the upside of the perpetual new birth experience that keeps salvation moving forward by faith alone. If you only experience despair, that’s a half gospel. Many are confused by John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine until they understand M&V, then it all makes perfect sense why joy must be part of the salvation experience. Contemporary Reformers state it this way:

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, or he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

Now, the next thesis is fairly interesting. In the fifth thesis, Luther distinguishes between crimes and mortal sins.

Thesis 5; The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.

For crimes are such acts which can also be condemned before men, such as adultery, theft, homicide, slander, etc. Mortal sins, on the other hand, are those which seem good yet are essentially fruits of a bad root and a bad tree. Augustine states this in the fourth book of ›Against Julian‹ (Contra Julianum).

This is pretty straight forward. Criminal acts are NOT classified as mortal sins. Criminal acts are works that are condemned among men while mortal sins are the good works of man that are really “fruit of a bad tree.” Those of orthodoxy must deny that man does any good work at all that is not condemned by God. The belief that any man can do any kind of meritorious work falls under sin that will not be forgiven. This means that Reformed persons in the know would seek daily forgiveness for every, and all acts performed by them. It pretty much boils down to this quotation cited by a theological journal:

The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck [Reformed philosopher Herman Bavink] (Present Truth: Sanctification-Its Mainspring  Volume 16 Article 13).

At this point it is fairly easy to draw a watershed conclusion in all of this: the lynchpin idea of the Reformation was that salvation can only be obtained and maintained with a righteousness not our own, but also the exclusion of righteous acts performed by us. At this point, there is only one way forward: a mystical manifestation of works performed by deity; Martin Luther’s Alien Righteousness. This necessarily demanded and still demands a discussion of a philosophical ideology to make manifestation and realm birthing feasible. The Heidelberg Disputation not only does that, but articulates the theoretical life application and how these manifestations are experiences in reality. Luther was very concise in that regard while anticipating future objections.

Thesis 6: The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

In Eccles. 7:20, we read, »Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.« In this connection, however, some people say that the righteous man indeed sins, but not when he does good. They may be refuted in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: »There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.« Why does he add »who does good,« as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus (Prov. 24:16), »The righteous man falls seven times a day.« Here he does not say: A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good. This is a comparison: If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.

Luther’s rusty and rough hatchet is an interesting metaphysical illustration. Notice carefully who the “’good’ craftsman” is. That can’t be us, right? Right, we are the rusty and rough hatchet. A hatchet, like all other tools, is a completely passive instrument. It has no life of its own. It only does what the craftsman does with it. Like one Reformed teacher said to me, “The Christian life is done to us not by us.”

Also, the hatchet doesn’t get any credit for the work, but only the good craftsman using the axe. This is Luther’s cardinal point of the thesis. This is a strict metaphysical dichotomy of good and evil with man defining evil and God defining good (The Calvin Institutes 1.1.1.). All manifestations of good on earth must come from above, and no good can be in man or come out of man.

Of course, this makes God the creator of rusty and rough hatchets; ie., sin and evil, but remember, as Luther stated, the good work of the craftsman only appears to be evil to us, right?

Although there is no room in this series to unravel every Scripture text that Luther twisted for his own purposes, I will speak to his use of Ecclesiastes 7:20 to make his point. All that verse is really saying is that man needs wisdom because he is not sinless and is prone to erroneous ways and death without wisdom. It’s not saying that no man does any good work. The idea in the text as noted by translations like NASB follows: no man does only good exclusively.

A thought before we go to the phones for you who are aware of our ministry’s dustup this week with the Wartburg Watch. Some folks from over there came over to PPT claiming that we have no orthodoxed credentials; therefore, apparently, our views are not relevant. Well, two things: if this is not orthodoxy, what is? And secondly, how can people claim to be advocates for the abused when they hold to this doctrine? They are either blowhards that don’t even understand what they are talking about, or they do understand. Which is it? Let’s go to the phones.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: