Sunday, September 24, 2006

Correction and Clarification

An anonymous commenter for the last post pointed out some issues with my post on the passing of Prof. Marquart, and I wanted to address them here because of their importance. I must ask for your forgiveness for these Omissions.

First the reader took me to task on the phrase "Jesus Christ was the Word incarnate- LAW and GOSPEL. There is no dividing the two- they are one and the same." He referenced two latin phrases: "opus alienum" and "opus proprium." Unfortunately, I am a lay person and have no experience with Latin. I did some checking and as best as I can get this to make sense is, respectively: "someone else's deeds" and "a deed I have done." His comment was "Is the law opus alienum, or opus proprium?"

This is where I omitted the important clarification, although I did allude to the calrification. Because of this omission, it changes everything, and I was in error due to it. I am going to go about it the long way so it is very clear where the error was.

There are two important doctrines of salvation (capitalized for clarity)- LAW and GOSPEL. These aspects are quite different and are separate. The LAW shows us our sins, and proclaims to us our inability to do anything to warrant any blessings of God. The LAW, while it is good, will damn us to hell. The GOSPEL is the wonderful news that God has given us mercy through the sacrifice of Christ. Christ takes our place and has fulfilled the LAW, allowing us to live eternally with God. This is where the latin comes in- "opus proprium" applies in the LAW (works you do mean zilch for salvation) and "opus alienum" applies to the GOSPEL (works of Christ provides for our salvation). In failing to be precise and clear (what I even suggested in the post), I am in grave error and must beg your forgiveness.

The intent was to point out that Christ is the Word made Flesh. He embodies both LAW and GOSPEL- they are combined in Him. He was under the LAW and fulfilled it, becoming our salvation. Since both LAW and GOSPEL complement one another perfectly, they are the two halves of our salvation. The LAW drives us to seek God, and the GOSPEL provides the mercy of God. I was looking at the LAW and GOSPEL as the two parts that make us Christian and provide the whole package for our salvation. As C.F.W. Walther says in Thesis I of God's No and God's Yes, the Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel "Both are equally necessary. Without the Law the Gospel is not understood; without the Gospel the Law benefits us nothing." The intent was to suggest a better phrase is "Word of God" since the secular/baptist translation often just means the GOSPEL and not the LAW (which is at odds with the Bible and Lutheran teachings). This was the intent, but the post fell far short.

The poster also took issue with my peeve of doing something "in someone's honor." The genesis of this peeve is the ubiquitous listings, at least in the southern US, of "driving (or another activity) in the memory/honor of ." This is blantantly wrong on so many levels- namely you do not drive in memory of someone, but to get to work, school, or another location. It only belittles their memory, even if they were pious. Let me get to what the poster wrote:

"You also have this problem, namely, the Lutheran Confessions in fact teach us to honor the saints, and imitate them. Before you are so quick to judge those who would honor this great servant of God, perhaps you might want to consider whether you yourself in fact have a full and complete grasp of the teachings of the Book of Concord. You might start with CA XXI and Ap XXI. Prof. Marquart was a very humble man, and did nothing for his own honor. But it is not right for you to teach such un-Lutheran ideas in a post about him."

First off, I did not intend to in any way relate this to Prof. Marquart. He has the respect of everyone I know who knew him, and my own, even though I did not know him or take classes under him. I know him simply by reputation, which was spotless. I was simply reflecting on a single passage in an article about his passing. I am sorry this was understood in such a way, but it was not my intent, nor did I say it directly or otherwise.

Secondly, a humble man will not, by definition, wish you do anything in their name or to honor them. That is the definition of humility! I take issue with the poster on this point due to the obvious contradiction. I sincerely doubt Prof. Marquart would want anyone to do anything but believe in God wholeheartedly. Even Luther cringed at the thought of the Lutheran denomination being named after him. I hope the poster can and does provide clarification on this point.

Thirdly, on the articles that the poster references, they mention two articles from the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession that deal with the Invocation of the Saints. These were written in response to the Roman Catholic teaching of praying to the saints (Mary, the Apostles, and others). In Article XXI of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the article seems to relate to saints as the Roman Catholic church understood them, not as the Lutheran doctrine of simultaneously sinner and saint. That difference not-with-standing, there is a clear prescription for honoring the saints.

The Apology says there are three ways we should honor the saints (sentences 4-7) in Article XXI. The first honor is to thank God for their examples of mercy, because God wishes to save people, and He has given the Church gifts (teachers are called out specifically). Second honor is the strengthening of our faith in that God has forgiven them of their sins and will forgive ours also. The third honor is to imitate their faith, and then their other virtues in our vocations. As I read and understand that, you honor the saints by 1) praising God for their example, 2) using that example as reassurance we also have salvation from God and 3) use our faith to be an example to others. Since faith is ultimately God's work, ultimately this boils down to: we are praising God for his examples and asking that we would in turn be those examples to others. The focus is on God alone.

While the original intent of the author of the article might have been to suggest we honor Prof. Marquart's memory by being faithful, I would argue that a line was crossed when the following was written "honor the blessed memory and legacy of Kurt Marquart is...redoubling our efforts and even more energetically advancing the cause of authentic, genuine, confessing Lutheranism..." Why do we confess our faith and keep it genuine? Is it because of Kurt Marquart? Or that which God has done, and does, for us? This point isn't as clear as it should have been, making the rememberance seem more than it should be- turning Prof. Marquart's example into a rallying cry.

I hope the anonymous poster will review this post and provide corrections and/or some form of acceptance that this is proper doctrine. I am a layman, and I am human. I will get some things really wrong, and other things slightly so. I can only correct error when it happens and I am made aware of it, and ask for forgiveness. I hope those who read this blog will provide me with the necessary correction when necessary.

It is my desire to use this blog to defend the faith, and in times of correction, grow in it. I only hope that this provides some benefit to those who read it as well.


Steven G. said...

The killing of our Old Adam by the Holy Spirit through the Law is generally considered God's "opus alienum" or God 's strange work.

The giving of life to our New man by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel is generally considered God's "opus proprium" or God's proper work.

The reason Luther made this distinction this way is because we know from commsense that Creator's create and Destroyer's destroy, and we all know that God is the Creator and Satan is the Destroyer. Therefore God comes to us in the Law wearing the mask of the Devil to terrify us of our sin thereby killing the Old Man, but in Christ and by extension the Gospel God reveals His true disposition towards us that of love.

Here's Luther's quote:
Isaiah also beautifully portrays this allegorical working of God when he says [28:21], "He does His word -- strange is His deed; and He works His work -- alien is His work!" It is as if he were saying: "Although He is the God of life and salvation and this is His proper work, yet, in order to accomplish this, he kills and destroys. These works are alien to him [opus alienum], but through them He accomplishes His proper work [opus proprium]. For He kills our will that He may be established in us. He subdues the flesh and its lusts that the spirit and its desires may come to life. [LW 14.335]

Anyway I think this what the commenter meant by his statement that included these terms

VirginiaLutherans said...


Thanks for the information. I am always learning something, and I am just realizing how much I don't know, but should. LW is "Luther's Works"?

Steven G. said...

Yes LW stands for "Luther's Works".