Friday, June 20, 2008

Offending against Love or Christ? What we can safely tolerate.

"Doctrine is heaven, life is earth. In life there is sin, error, uncleanness, and misery, mixed, as the saying goes, 'with vinegar.' Here love should condone, tolerate, be deceived, trust, hope, and endure all things (1 Cor. 13:7); here the forgiveness of sins should have complete sway, provided that sin and error are not defended. But just as there is no error in doctrine, so there is no need for any forgiveness of sins. Therefore there is no comparison at all between doctrine and life. 'One dot' of doctrine is worth more than 'heaven and earth' (Matt. 5:18); therefore we do not permit the slightest offense against it. But we can be lenient toward errors of life. For we, too, err daily in our life and conduct; so do all the saints, as they earnestly confess in the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure; we have all the articles of faith solidly established in Sacred Scripture. The devil would dearly love to corrupt and overthrow these; that is why he attacks us so cleaverly with this specious argument about not offending against love and the harmony among the churches."

- Martin Luther, Luther’s Works 27: 41-42


Aric Clark said...

Every now and then a quote like this reminds me how wonderfully fallible all of our heroes of the faith are. You couldn't go more directly against Corinthians 13, the Epistle of James, or indeed the Gospel itself if you tried.

Chris said... least he was right in showing how we should hate the Jews, eh?

Dave Moody said...


perhaps prayer and fasting, for our progressive friends?


Aric Clark said...

I just don't get your point Chris. I realize you're trying to be humorous, but these are completely disconnected issues. Of course the things Luther said about Jews are abhorrent. And?

Doug Hagler said...

Chris is just making a point that is an old chestnut among conservatives - that wanting peace in Palestine and hating Jews are the same. Its a great way to make sure our conversations on this topic are zero-sum and never lead to any good solutions.

It unfortunately covers a good point he could have made, that the change in language by the PCUSA that he links to was a bad idea, and is clearly a knee-jerk reaction fueled by the harsh conflict over our policy toward Israel (which Chris and his allies so enjoy enflaming at every opportunity), and that a better idea would be to leave up the language on anti-Semitism and to add to it, at a later time, a well-thought-out statement on peace in Palestine.

Well, time to get back to hating Jews.

Chris said...


My original point is that converting us to a practices-only denomination (whether it be justice issues or conformity to the Book of Order) is a guaranteed-failure. We are a people of the Word confessed. That confession takes us to different actions at different times, but it is rooted in that singular identity that we inherited and which we are to pass on inviolate. We can - and should - tolerate all manner of sinfulness as part of our broken humanity. We should be vigilant against any, though, who seek to mock the word which we received.

Doug... I'm not a pro-Israel dispensationalist. But as a rational individual, it's hard for me to see how the PCUSA can claim to want peace in Israel-Palestine. It spends 95% of its time covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by defamatory aspersions against the ONE party in this conflict who has shown repeated, tangible, unilateral efforts to give into the demands of a group of people who vocally and vocationally seek the end of a Jewish state.

It would be very different if Israel weren't giving up land it won (after Arab agression). It would be very different if Israel were targeting civilians every day (instead of pinpointing political/militant leaders as retaliation for immediately-prior attacks on civilians).

The PCUSA is so given over to victicrat thinking that it can't even see who's the victim. It can only hear the people who are crying "unfair"!!!!

Anonymous said...

How exactly does what Luther say go against the whole "Epistle of James" when James says this in 3:1-12, also you may want to consult James 4:11.

Or the Gospel? Take a peak at Matthew 14:1-12, 1 John 5:3, or Romans 16:17 and 1 Timothy 1,etc...

Before you go downin' my main man Marty you might want to consult your Scriptures. (Besides did James even write James? How can we then give credence to what he said?)

Chris said...

Ben (Backwoods),

You don't have to actually make your case. Just assert it with enough disdainful arrogance and people can safely assume that you're more informed.

As for "the gospel" - isn't that the reality of being a presence of peace in a time of anxiety? You know...calm in the storm, peace in the uncertainty and hope in the fear.

Aric Clark said...


First of all, kindly refrain from the condescending suggestion that I "consult my scriptures". I might easily suggest you do the same since your citations all completely missed the point and in a couple cases actually reinforced mine.

At issue here is not my regard for Luther which is high enough, though he was clearly wrong about a number of things as every person is.

My point is merely that Doctrine can't be set up as some superior level of truth that is immune to sin or flaws. The Reformed Doctrine of Total Depravity utterly contradicts this in any case making it a moot point. The teachings we have, received, contemporary, scriptural and otherwise are just as liable to flaw as anything else.

To directly address your citations so no one is left with the mistaken impression that you in anyway proved any kind of point:

James 3:1-12 = he is here dealing with advice to a community suffering through adversity. No where in this passage does he deal with questions of doctrine or its fallibility. He mentions doubt only in the context of someone suffering oppression and urges courage in response.

James 4:11 - The key here is that he is saying that those who speak ill of the law are not doers of the law. At best I suppose you could extrapolate by analogy the idea that those who speak poorly of doctrine also sin, but the point remains that sin is the issue, not criticism of the law. As with the rest of the Epistle James is urging us here to judge people by their fruit.

Matthew 14:1-12 - you'll have to explain the connection you saw here, as it is not obvious.

1 John 5:3 - Here you are shooting yourself in the foot, because John's point, like James' is that what is important is that we DO what the commandments say - ie: that we love our brothers and sisters (as he explicitly says just a few verses before this one). In other words exactly in opposition to Luther, John contends that the teaching is utterly secondary to our practice and we may say all the right things and still fail at what matters most.

Romans 16:17 - Paul's focus here again is on behavior, "dissension and offenses" (NRSV), that is contrary to the teaching. He says nothing about Teaching being impervious to fault or requiring absolute vigilance as Luther does. He says watch out for people who are unloving, contrary to Christ's commandment.

1 Timothy 1 - Note in verse 5 "the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith." The teaching is subservient to ethical behavior NOT the other way around as Luther here tries to make it. If anything we must reverse Luther's judgment on the basis of Timothy and all of these scriptures and say that Doctrine is life, and Love of Neighbor is heaven.

Let us not overlook the constant concern of the Torah, the prophets and Jesus Christ himself according to the gospels with just behavior before pious language. It is practically the refrain of the entire Bible that God is more concerned with righteous living than with sacrifices, ritual and prayer.

Aric Clark said...


I really think your high opinion of Doctrine is a failure to be sufficiently Reformed. We really cannot, if we take our sinfulness seriously, accept the idea that we have ever or will ever get it all right - conceptually or in practice. It is you, and not the PCUSA that has instituted too sharp a divide between Confession and Practice. You want to hold that our teachings are inviolate and cannot be changed while we might allow some latitude in behavior because of human incontinence. On the contrary we must assume our teachings are as full of flaws as our behaviors and seek always to repent and amend them. True vigilance is not protecting what we have received jealously from the sinful incursions of culture - it is acknowledging that the corruption begins from within and we cannot pull up the tares for fear of destroying the wheat.

Chris said...


Good doctrine can (and has) reformed bad practice. I'm not aware of the reverse ever being the case. Even under Josiah's reforms - when high places were torn down and behavior was highly regulated - the heart remained unchanged and bent on wickedness in the next generation.

Maybe I'm too much of an interiorist ( neologisms are a sign of my illness), but I've seen how changes in beliefs, attitudes, and convictions have led to changes in outward behavior. While I believe that there are times when "fake it till you make it" has worked, I'm willing to venture that they are rarer (especially in our anti-restraint society). Hey...entering a more intentionally sacramental church, I have to at least be willing to venture that how we act has the ability to shape how we think. [lex agenda, lex credenda?]

Benjamin P. Glaser said...


Is there a Canon within the Canon?