Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Roundtable 4: Original Sin

Sin is much more than wrong things that we do. Those are symptoms of the terminal disease with which we are born and with which we shall die, and because of which we die. Born and conceived in sin, we inherit the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The disease can only be healed by the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin. The Augsburg Confession in Article II rejects the errors of Pelagius, and others, who deny that"original depravity" is in fact sin, and that because it is not, there is the ability of man to contribute to his salvation by drawing on that little, tiny remaining spark of goodness with him. Rome taught, and still teaches, that the inclination toward sin we are both with is not in fact actually sin. Consider the manifold and dangerous errors that come about when original sin is not confessed purely according to God's Word. Consider the blessing of the forgiveness of sin, specifically the forgiveness of original sin. By the way, I'm dispensing with segregating blog author comments from reader responses.


Rev. Robert W. said...

Thanks, Paul, for leading us into the consideration of Article II. This is a most critical position for Lutherans, that is, for the pure Gospel. All confessing alternatives to the faith confessed by the Augsburg Confession differ with us on this Article. Justification is, as we all hold, "the article on which the Church stands or falls." That said, Article II is "the article on which 'the article on which the Church stands of falls' stands or falls." If a Lutheran begins to be attracted to some other siren sound, a departure from Article II is always involved.

Robert. [Schaibley]

Dr. Mark D. Nispel said...

This article is offensive and unacceptable to many if not most[1] even while seeming to many of us to be one of the the most obvious and undeniable of doctrines even to reason. It causes one to look around and ask such critics: "What world are you looking at?"

Much of this comes from the fervent desire to defend the thing most often called "free will." But this argument rarely gets to the place the Confessions want to be when they claim the reality of original sin.

As can be seen from the Apology the emphasis for the confessors is upon the assertion that "no one by nature is able to have true fear of God or true faith in God." (German) [2]. Original sin is first and primarily characterized by the lack of faith and trust in our Creator Father demanded by the First Table, and then secondarily by the lack of love for neighbor demanded by the Second Table.

And so upon reflection one could argue that the very objection to this article in the name of a self-justifying appeal to "free will", is in itself a glaring example of the point made in this article.


[1] As a recent example see this current blog entry at where Christians are singled out for being "fatalistic" and objectionable due to this doctrine:

(Sorry you'll have to patch it together)

[2] See AAC 2.8 for example where Melanchthon points to the "more serious faults of human nature, to wit, ignorance of God, contempt for God, being destitute of fear and confidence in God, hatred of God's judgment, flight from God ..." He returns to this point over and over again in the Apology.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Original sin is such a crucial article because it links to and affects so much of Christian thought and even practice. Of course the free will aspect but also infant baptism. Beyond that it affects our entire anthropology, how we view people. An emphasis on original sin such as we see in the Confessions leads to vigorous Gospel preaching, a proper emphasis on the sacraments and a balanced view of hwo good works relate to justification. Without a real doctrine of original sin, moralism comes creeping in to our preaching and practice.

Aaron D. Wolf said...

Your point about Rome's very different teaching on this topic is very important. Rome, beginning at Trent, condemns the view that the inclination toward sin is sin. They use tortured interpretations of Scripture to arrive at their foregone conclusion, as the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, demonstrates:

"As to concupiscence the council [of Trent] declares that it remains in those that are baptized in order that they may struggle for the victory, but does no harm to those who resist it by the grace of God, and that it is called sin by St. Paul, not because it is sin formally and in the proper sense, but because it sprang from sin and incites to sin."

One important application of this has to do with the Church's attitude toward homosexuality, especially toward the ordination of homosexual priests. For Rome, you can "be a homosexual," yet this is not, in itself, sinful—the inclination, that is. For the last several decades, then, it made sense for Catholics to encourage young men who claimed that identity to enter the priesthood, precisely because the celebacy requirement put a check on acting out the inclination. The scandals we have seen for the last five years, most of which involve sodomizing teenage boys (relatively few were younger children) can be seen as the evil fruit of this policy. And that tree is planted in the soil of a rejection of Article II at Trent.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

The two points of this article which Eck rejected in the Confutation are significant: 1. That infants are born without fear and trust in God. 2. That concpuiscence is "truly sin." (Eck also rejects the idea that concpisence remains sin after Baptism -- despite the fact that AC 2 said clearly that concupisence "damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit." Eck is likely referring to some of Luther's earlier comments on the matter, here, from the Babylonian Captivity with respect to the mystery of the contiunation of sin in the life of the baptized.)

His basis for his first rejection is revealing: "...this article's declaration that original sin means that humanity is born without fear and trust in God is to be completely rejected. As every Christian acknowledges, adults fail to fear and trust God, but this is not a fault found in infants, WHO LACK THE USE OF REASON." (emphasis mine).

Oddly enough, the idea of "reason" comes in to AC 2 in the condemnation of the Pelagians! "Pelagians argue that a person can be justified before God by his own strength and reason."

Thus the student of the Catechism who confesses that "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him," is making a layman's confession in accord with AC 2. According to Eck's response to this article human reason must be "alive" and "capable" before it can really condemn us. Thus, as Sasse likes to put it, the Lutherans take the "lonely way" between the Reformed (in this case, the Armenians/Baptists) and the Romanists. Those who today reject baptism to infants on the grounds of the myth of an "age of accountability," because such children do not yet have full use of their reason, ultimately stand upon the same shifting sands as do the Romanists who agree with Eck: on human reason.

The key, for the argument in the Apology, is by following Aquinas (it's always a good move when you can show how their own "guys" are on your side), in defining original sin as the lack of "original righteousness." The problem, according to the Apology, is not a matter of "reason" but a lack of "righteousness." Bonaventure is also cited with regard to this position. Melanchthon's method allows him to say, then, "When it comes to original sin, we hold nothing different from either Scripture or the Catholic Church." If original sin is truly the lacking, or loss, of original righteousness the rest of AC 2 cannot be rejected. If man has lost his "original righteousness" it so follows that all that made him rightly and fully human as He once was in fellowship with God is now gone. So man cannot even know God, much less place confidence in him, or "fear" or "love" him. (I love how the AC/Apology is wrought with language from the Small Catechism).

With respect to Eck's second Objection, the Apology responds that Eck has committed pure slander! Luther's position is clarified, "Luther always writes that Baptism removes the guilt of original sin. However, the *material*, as they call it, of the sin (concupisence) remains." Then, Melanchthon goes on to expound upon Augustine so that he says, "if they don't like this, then let t hem argue with Augustine." (I like that line).

Ultimately, as the AC 2 says, Eck's posision is guilty of "obscuring the glory of Christ's merit and benefits."

Ultimately, this means Baptism ceases to be a true Baptism as well (at least conceptually), as if there is still a "flame" that can be tindered within man to fear and love God again, then the Baptismal waters would do no good in extinguishing this flame. If there is such a flame, the death of the Old Adam would not be required. If such a "flame" remained, it would be the task of the Church not to put the Old Adam to death, but to revive him, get that flame burning brighter, and the like. However, as such a flame has long ago ceased to burn within us, Baptism is a true death of the Sinner. Burried with Christ in Baptism, all our world is darkened (as at the crucifixion) and any sort of "flame" that the Old Adam has tried to invent for himself in his own quest for self-justification is rightly extinguished, so that in a true Baptism with the "Holy Spirit" and "Fire," the new man truly emerges.

So often we preach "law" and "gospel," weak on the law (thus weak on the Gospel) in such a way that there is no dying and rising. Rather, our habit is often much more akin to giving paper cuts and applying Band-Aids. In so doing, for all practical purposes, we lose sight of Article 2 and find ourselves closer to Eck's position than we would admit. Law and Gospel is a preaching *into* the drowning waters of Holy Baptism from which the new man, recreated by these primordial waters, emerges.

Apart from Original Sin, there can be no true understanding of Baptism, thus no true dying and rising, thus Christ's own death and resurrection in whom we have a share in Baptism is also obscured (even denied) alongside one's rejection of original sin.

William Weedon said...

I have always found it interesting that many confessional Lutherans want to downplay the sanitive language of this particular article, where original sin is spoken of as terminal disease. I think that this is a particularly helpful image, and one which we do well to pay careful attention to. The AC speaks BOTH ways that Scripture speaks: we are dead, but we are also dying. It's the second part we're likely to neglect.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Oddly enough, the idea (or metaphor) of original sin as a "disease" seems to have been granted by all parties. It seems likely, though, that the emphasis in this particular article is that this disease is *actually sin.* This is in contrast to Zwingli who argued, "...that the original contagion is a sickness, not a sin, because sin is inseparable from fault." (CR 92, p. 372). Or, what Eck attributes to Zwingli in the 404 articles, that "Original sin is not sin but a natural defect like stuttering."

Interestingly enough, the phrase concerning original sin as a "disease" is not found in the Torgau Articles, Schwabach Articles, or Marburg Articles. Thus, I think it is likely that it is due to Eck's 404 Articles (articles that the Lutherans encountered when they arrived at Augusburg, thus forcing Melanchthon to make some revisions to the articles he had originally intended to present) and the Lutheran intention to distinguish themselves from Zwingli that inspires this insight. For while Zwingli insists that Original Sin is not "sin" itself, but merely a fault, the AC 2 emphasizes that this disease is not only something that leads to actual sin, but it is itself sin that alone damns and brings about eternal death.

A few points are interesting and worth noting... in this context it would have been easy to simply deny the use of the metaphor of original sin *as a disease,* thus dispensing with Zwingli's view in that matter. On the contrary, the Lutherans maintain the "disease" language with respect to Original Sin -- only they reject Zwingli's understanding of how the "disease" metaphor actually applies. Thus, by understanding Original Sin in terms of the loss of original righteousness, it becomes clear that the disease is more than a condition that leads to symptoms (as if it were merely the symptoms that were the problem) but that the disease itself amounts to a loss of original righteousness, thus is itself sin and causes eternal death (damnation).

Rev. Robert W. said...

William, thanks for your observation about not only dead, but dying. I was nodding my head in appreciative agreement, until, that is, I did a rerun on the previous sentence, to that word I skipped right by, "sanitive." Hmmm -- hadn't heard that word in a while, about a year ago to be precise. It was in December, 2005 in Bill Cwirla's Blogosphere -- he used the term "St. Augustine's sanitive justification."

But, we're not talking justification here, in Article II. So, I wonder how the fact that we are not only dead, but dying, relates to a sanitive dimension.

So, while wondering, I scouted around some more, and came up with connection between sanitive and dying, from Muentzer, who spoke of "the movement of the Spirit involved in the sanitive process of dying and rebirth," leading to "an experiecne of cleansing, spiritual regeneration, and newness of life."

Now, I certainly don't want to consign you to the same boat(s) as Augustine and Muentzer. So, I am confused. What, exactly, is it that is "sanitive" in Article II that confessional Lutherans have missed, or at least that I have missed?

Robert. [Schaibley]

George Schmidt said...

Just as a point of clarification. You write, "Rome taught, and still teaches, that the inclination toward sin we are born with is not in fact actually sin." I don't think the label of "actually sin" is entirely clear. Instead, the Catechism of the Catholic Church prefers to speak of original sin as "contracted" and personal sin as "committed". Rome identifies original sin as being "actual" because it does cause the "death of the soul". For this reason, the Church of Rome baptizes infants for the remission of sin. Hence, Rome would understand original sin to be "actual" (if actual means sins brings death) while they would not define it as "committed". A distinction I think Lutheran tradition would concede.

Chemnitz maintains this distinction: orignal sin and actual sin. Original sin is not actual, it is inherited. "Actual sins are the depraved fruits of original sinas of a corrupt and evil tree, that is, they are actions in conflict with the law of God, both interior in mind, will and heart, and exterior attitudes, words and deeds..." (An Enchiridion). This may be a point of minutia and nit-pickiness, but clarity is needed when discussing doctrine.

William Weedon said...


You've caught me out: I am an Augustinian Münzerite! ; )

What I meant by sanative was simply that what corresponds to the language of OS as disease is healing. This is the way the Formula directs us as well: "Furthermore, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted by original sin, must and can be (GASP!!!!!!) H-E-A-L-E-D only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit [i.e., Baptism]. However, this (DOUBLE GASP!!!!!) HEALING is only begun in this life. It will not be perfect until the life to come." SD II:14

Yes, God is in the PROCESS of HEALING human nature which has been infected, damaged and corrupted by original sin. It's just what the Symbols teach.

Augustine? Yes, and even Luther: "This life is not health, but HEALING."


William Weedon said...


But the Formula's further and even expanded use of the metaphor suggests that there's more there than just saying: "We ain't Zwinglians," don't you think?

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

The distinction is not whether or not Rome acknowledges whether or not original sin is "actual" or not. The question is whether or not concupisence is, in fact, sin. Further, at contention is whether or not "original sin" is entirely removed in Baptism (Rome) or if original sin remains post-baptismally, but only the *guilt* of Original Sin is removed (Luther).

Rev. Robert W. said...

Thanks for your explanation of the God who heals the sinful nature. My thoughts, which you invite, are these: I buy exactly what the Confession express; I'm not so keen on what the Confessions might imply, according to one reader or another.

In this case, I certainly would affirm the metaphor of healing, AS LONG AS it is allowed to stand hand-in-hand with the metaphor of killing (even as in, "that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die." After all, we are Lutherans, and therefore we embrace the paradoxical nature of the revelation of God. That embrace can encompass both dying/healing and death/resurrection. What it cannot encompass, as I understand the Apology in particular, is "progressive" healing, aka "progressive sanctification."

But, of course, if you have been exposed as an Augustinian Muenzterite, then I must confess to being a Lutheran Thomist. :)

Robert. [Schaibley]

William Weedon said...

First, of course the healing metaphor stands next to the death and resurrection metaphor. No progressive sanctification, eh?

Okay. Color me confused - and no smartassed comments, thank you.

"For this must be done without ceasing, that we always KEEP purging away whatever belongs to the old Adam. Then what belongs to the new man may come forth. But what is the old man? It is what is born in human beings from Adam: anger, hate, envy, unchastity, stinginess, laziness, arrogance - yes, unbelief. The old man is INFECTED with all vices and has by nature nothing good in him. Now, when we have come into Christ's kingdom, THESE THINGS MUST DAILY DECREASE. The longer we live THE MORE WE BECOME gentle, patient, meek, and ever turn away from unbelief, greed, hatred, envy, and arrogance." LC V:65-67

As Ricky was wont to say: "Splain!"

William Weedon said...

And what about:

"On the other hand, where people have become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he finally perishes." V:71

Is not a daily decrease in the old dude a progress in sanctification?

George Schmidt said...

My point was to say that yes, Rome does in fact believe that concupiscence is "actually" sin (contracted, inherited sin but not committed sin). The point on baptism is conceded: Rome believes that in Baptism the baptized is turned back to God, erasing original sin, while still believing that human nature is weakened and inclined to evil. Most definitely different than the Lutheran understanding.

But to stay with the point, Rome does believe that original sin is "actually" sin, ie. worthy of death.

And now to flow in with the other conversation. I find it difficult, if not flat out contradictory, to speak of progressive sanctification in "Luther" theology. Why? If the person is simul justus et pecator there is at both and the same time no need for sanctification progressing (you are already fully justified and righteous, hence holy in God's eyes) and no possibility for sanctification progressing (you are sinful and corrupt). While Luther at times may hint at "progressive sanctification" language (as Wheedon as posted) there seems to be no real (at least no real logical) place for it in his simul justus et pecator theology. Hence, while progressing in holiness does make sense in the Roman understanding of a post-baptismal life, it doesn't really make any sense at all in the "Luther" tradition.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

"But the Formula's further and even expanded use of the metaphor suggests that there's more there than just saying: "We ain't Zwinglians," don't you think?"

Sure. It seems, though, that they're struggling over where and how the metaphor applies. Every metaphor falls short at some level (some external entailments do not rightly apply). Some external entailments might apply, but aren't the intention of the immediate context of the metaphor's use with regard a particular situation. I suppose I'm simply looking to rejoice in the "proprium" of our confession in AC 2 before moving on to other implications of the same metaphor in other contexts (i.e FC 1, or elsewhere). They "dying" nature of "disease" is there "in the background," due to the history of that language, but I don't think the idea of original sin as "disease" is used here immediately to emphasize the concern that we are "dying" as well as dead. When the FC takes up the question of Original Sin as a sort of "repetition" of the AC, it is not merely a commentary, but a sort of expansion for a different context. In that context the idea of original sin as a "spiritual leprosy" is used. Though, even there there are other concerns involved regarding anthropology, whether original sin is essence or accident, etc. I suppose the parameters of this discussion are open to bringing in the Formula, even other authorities beyond our confessional corpus -- I'm just not sure that this is the immediate concern of the "disease" reference in the AC, nor do I really see that concern explicitly in the Apology or Formula. Thus I'd contend that if we were going to try to argue for (or against) the notion that, due to the disease of original sin, we are both dying and dead (just as we are both being saved, and are saved already) we have to move beyond the text itself and what is being explicitly confessed therein. Not that I'm trying to squelch the conversation with hermeneutics. :-) I'm not saying that the "disease" metaphor can't rightly be used that way, I'm just not sure that it is in this context (i.e. as the Apology goes to lengths to show how Rome misuses the metaphor by trying to discern whether the disease was contracted from the Apple, or whatnot).

William Weedon said...


I think that it is helpful is to remember that the AC and Ap neither start out fresh with anything. They're part of a conversation in the Church that goes back to the Scriptures themselves. And in that discussion, the use of original sin as disease had a history. (Think of how in the Summa Thomas follows Bede's lead in speaking of how the sin of our first parent inflicted four wounds on our human nature, etc.) It's true that it's not the major point under discussion in AC II - the major point is the extent of the corruption and above all that the disordered desires are already sin in themselves, not merely innocent inclinations. Still, it's there. And not just for rhetorical purposes. Original sin is also a "disease." Congenital even. And clearly terminal.

Paul T. McCain said...

I thank everyone participating in this conversation for both the style and the substance of their remarks! Wonderful. Precisely what I was hopeful could actually take place on a Lutheran blog site talking about theology: intelligent, reflective, courteous conversation.

OK, now to this thread and the question of "progress" in sanctification.

Clearly our Book of Concord does speak of a "progress" of sorts, of some kind.

This conversation about sanctification reminds me of other conversations I've had recently on the subject of sanctification.

Perhaps, and I put this as a question here, could it be that one of our challenges is one of definition? Our Confessions use the term "sanctification" in a wide sense to refer to justification/salvation/regeneration, but there is also that use of "sanctification" which speaks to the regenerate's good works, etc.

Could some of the challenge when talking about a "progress" in sanctification be one of definining terms?

Also, as we speak of "progress" is the concern that we are perilously close to "progress" being a sort of "God has done His thing with you, now you must hold up your end of the bargain?"

Also, may we speak of "continuing justification" in contradistinction from "progressive sanctification"?

I think "progress" raises fears in many peoples' minds that we will cause the regenerate to look to his own "reason or strength" after his justification, but does this fear/concern cause us perhaps adequately and fully to grasp what the Lutheran Confessions do have to say about the regenerate and the freed will that does strive and does grow in the doing of good works, all by grace alone, in Christ alone.

William Weedon said...


I think we can speak of the "healing" of our human nature which is progressive. God is of course the one who is healing us. And that healing is at the same time a progressive "putting to death" of the old self, and in that the new self cooperates. But this healing is precisely not something that is effected by belly-watching. I'm not ashamed to go with Augustine on this one: "Brethren, that we may be healed of sin, let us gaze upon Christ Crucified."

William Weedon said...

One more thought: it doesn't become the least bit problematic if we keep in mind that wonderful formula of Luther's (well, of PAUL'S!) that the Finns brought to light: "grace and the gift in grace." Grace, the pardoning verdict of God, remains the constant umbrella over our lives, shielding us from the divine wrath, clothing us with a holiness which is sheer perfection itself: our Lord Jesus Christ. But the gift in grace always comes with. The Holy Spirit and he invariably begins a work in us that will not be brought to completion until the Age to come. That work in us is progressive, ongoing, and may certainly be described as the healing of our nature from original sin. This ongoing work of the Spirit within us can never become the basis for our justification because it remains partial (yet hopefully increasing!) throughout our lives. Before the throne of God, our plea is the Cross of Christ alone. But meanwhile there is something going on inside of us. St. Paul is not ashamed to speak of our being "transformed from one degree of glory to another" - but this comes above all by our "beholding as in the mirror the glory of the Lord" - which is the Crucified Christ.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Of course, original sin as "disease" has a history of use. Though, the nature of its use here (particularly with respect to the Apology's comments about how the metaphor had been misused in Rome) is limited to a particular use of the metaphor. Seeing as though other uses of the metaphor from the history of the church are explicitly rejected (as the Apology rejects the idea that the "disease" is somehow contracted from an apple), I'm hesitant to presume other uses of this metaphor apart from its particular use in this context. In other words, while it MIGHT support the idea, AC 2 isn't necessarily conclusive evidence that we subscribe to the use of "disease" with respect to both dying and death. As you cited it, the Large Catechism is a better place to go. The reason I make a bit of a fuss over this is two fold: 1. In our discussions over the confessions we tend to import a lot of external concerns. This is fine, so long as we don't lose the proprium of what is being confessed therein. 2. If a particular context is not warranting a particular interpretation, yet we read it into there, we might also be led into using other aspects of the text to say things that aren't really there. Thus, I'm simply proposing that we start with the text, it's own immediate historical context, and then we proceed outward, like ripples from a pebble in the pond, to consider external questions tangentially related in the church's history (either beforehand, or after).

I think there might be come confusion with respect to the distinction between concupisence and original sin. First, I tend to stay away from the Catholic Catechism when trying to interpret Rome's positions being refuted in the Confessions. First, because often what is being refuted (at least in the AC) is Eck's argument (which is unofficial) and also that medieval Roman Catholic theology is not, in many respects, the same as it is today. In Eck's 404 Articles he lists a view he attributes to Luther within his section on "new and old errors," "The tinder [of concupiscence] truly is actual sin, actual absence of what ought to be there. It is a thing that is alive, and daily sin is a motivating force." Thus, Eck is rejecting Luther's position here that concupiscence is actual sin. Thus the distinction between original sin/actual sin is not, for Luther, so much a categorical distinction as it is a matter of its origins. Both are "sin" and both are damning -- so that concupiscence is not necessarily congruent with "original sin," though it has its origins there, but it is itself actual sin.

Paul T. McCain said...

Here is what the chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession had to say about the whole notion of life as hospital and the healing of sin. I think he says it quite well:

After baptism there still remains much of the old Adam. For, as we have often said, it is tame that sin is forgiven in baptism, but we are not yet altogether clean, as is shown in the parable of the Samaritan, who carried the man wounded by robbers to an inn [Luke 10:30–37]. He did not take care of him in such a way that he healed him at once, but rather bound up his wounds and poured on oil. The man who fell among robbers suffered two injuries. First, everything that he had was taken from him, he was robbed; and second, he was wounded, so that he was half-dead and would have died, if the Samaritan had not come to him. Adam fell among the robbers and implanted sin in us all. If Christ, the Samaritan, had not come, we should all have had to die. He it is who binds our wounds, carries us into the church and is now healing us. So we are now under the Physician’s care. The sin, it is true, is wholly forgiven, but it has not been wholly purged. If the Holy Spirit is not ruling men, they become corrupt again; but the Holy Spirit must cleanse the wounds daily. Therefore this life is a hospital; the sin has really been forgiven, but it has not yet been healed.

Martin Luther, vol. 51, Luther's Works, Vol. 51 : Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works, 51:373 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1959).

Eric Phillips said...

Rev. Robert W. said,

> In this case, I certainly would affirm the
> metaphor of healing, AS LONG AS it is allowed
> to stand hand-in-hand with the metaphor of
> killing

Since we are healed BY being killed and brought back to life, it seems only natural to maintain both modes of speaking. I wouldn't even call them metaphors. It may have been Muntzer (are we talking Thomas Muntzer?) who used the phrase, "the sanitive process of dying and rebirth," but no one can be wrong all the time. Dying and rising again _is_ sanitive. "It is sown in corruption; it is reaped in incorruption."

William Weedon said...


Fair enough. But I don't think by eliminating one rather wacky idea about the disease of original sin (the posioned apple!) should be read as dumping or minimalizing the whole construct. But your words about contexting are important and I appreciate them.

Mike said...

There is danger in the misuse of "progressive sanctification".

Gradual improvement is only rightly taught when it is clearly tied to daily repentence. It is impossible to divorce the two. Christians easily latch onto progressive sanctification because it allows them to procrastinate, resist, or lessen the zeal with which the Old Adam is daily drowned.

In this case, Original Sin and daily repentence can be identified as the Law and the progressive sanctification brought by Faith as the Gospel. Gospel without Law is worthless.

Without vigilance, this is an easy trap for even the most learned and wise to fall into. The strongest Christians find it hard to resist turning from "We are all beggers" and embracing the excuse of "I am a work in progress."

In this way, pet sins can be preserved for later improvement and difficult steps of obedience can be postponed. Progressive sanctification is too often used by secure sinners to dictate the time table of their regeneration.

Scripture clearly teaches that there can only be one master, one love, and one condition. There can be no case where someone "mostly" follows God or becomes "progressively" less and less sinful.

Once that is taken into account, it is clear that any "progressive sanctification" that is observed in an individual Christian is the product of a higher rate of success in resisting temptation and not the result of any improvement or healing of the sinner's actual condition.

To better explain, the fact that I can boast that I sin less now than I did in the summer of '93 does not make me any less of a sinner since any and all sin condems. Because I cannot choose God by my own strength or reason, it is obvious that I am not better than I was at all. The only difference is that Faith and the Holy Spirit are more present.

As Christians, we are all called to resist temptation and turn from sin. That command to be holy (or like Christ) is not designed to follow a gradual timeline, but carries with it an approach that must be as instentanious as it is continual.

This is why "that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die" applies to even the strongest in the faith. No one progresses to the point where that daily dying is no longer needed. At the root of this need is the reason why it is so easy for even the "best" of us to fall into total godlessness: Original Sin.

Paul T. McCain said...

Wanted also to mention that the quote here from Luther I provided is from what is thought to be the last known sermon he gave in Wittenberg, in 1546. One can not say this was "young Luther" who had not yet worked his way out of his Romanist inclinations. FWIW.

Pastor Beisel said...

Sanctification is progressive, but this progress is not necessarily something that we are (or should be) always aware of. "When did we see you naked...?" There is no such thing as progressive Justification. This is why the distinction is helpful. Through baptism and faith we are completely reconciled to God and He to us, since His righteousness is imputed to us. What is imputed to us by faith becomes more and more ours as we grow in Christ, to the extent that at the end we will be truly and completely holy.

Rev. Robert W. said...

The problem with affirming progressive sanctification is that it reverses the relationship between Law and Gospel. Once you get justified, according to this view, from then on the role of the Gospel is to increase our sanctification according to the Law. The Gospel becomes penultimate, while the Law becomes ultimate. Even the nature of imputed righteousness becomes provisional, standing in for this "more and more" conformity to the Law, until we get to "complete" sanctification, at which time Christ's righteousness, our imputed righteousness, our justification, are then no longer needed, while the Law finishes up the job of sustaining eternal holiness.

This is Protestant. It is not Lutheran!

Robert. [Schaibley]

Paul T. McCain said...

As much as I hesitate to stifle discussion on this relatively inactive blog site, a fact that is entirely my own fault, by the way, I do think we are beginning to stray quite a bit away from the topic of Original Sin.

Therefore, I would like to encourage us to stay on the topic here.

But don't worry, at the rate we are going, we should be getting to the Formula of Concord, Third Use of the Law, by...oh...maybe 2020.

wcwirla said...

Sorry for chiming in late in this discussion. I feel like someone who's pulled up a chair at a bar table just when the round's been called.

What I find interesting about Article II is that it's intent is not to denigrate humanity (as some mistakenly read it), but to extol Christ. The futility of saving ourselves is underscored in the teaching of "original sin." This is the origin of all sins, an "inborn" and "hereditary" condition that is common to all "who are born according to the course of nature." This, of course, exempts our Lord Jesus Christ, who though fully human, was not conceived and born according to the course of nature.

That has often left me wondering whether it is proper to say that original sin is passed on through the father (Adam). I seem to recall a Luther quote to this effect, though memory fails me. I think it was in the context of circumcision that Luther expounded this thought. Perhaps his Genesis commentary might be the source.

I likewise share Robert's concern with sanitive language. (I believe my name was invoked in that context.) Augustine's idea of simul justus et peccator was partum/partum of sinner becoming saint through the working out of God's judicium in the sinner. Fortunately, Luther, recognizing the paradox of Law and Gospel, saw the simul as totum/totum.

We can save this thought for a future date, when we must deal with sanctification (certainly not in this article, since there is no cure for the sickness of original sin other than death and resurrection through Baptism, as Article II notes): I think the tension with progressive, sanitive views of sanctification and the notion that all things are already accomplished in Christ (Eph 1), is the tension of the now/not yet or the playing out in chronos (chronological time) what is already fully accomplished in the eternality (aion) of Christ. In Christ, we are fully justified and sanctified. In ourselves, we are becoming what we already are in Christ through our daily dying and rising.

Jon Bischof said...

Bill Cwirla has stated it clearly. The "progress" or "increase" of our becoming what God had accounted us to be (righteous by means of faith in Christ) is not presented in Scripture as an empirical progression.

There is no way a Christian can rightly 'measure' or 'calculate' his advancement in sanctification.

So while we may use such words as "increase" and "progress"; we need to keep in mind that our being made in actuality what we are accounted to be forensically is not an incremental increase in "parts per holiness" or some other such empirical measure of actual righteousness--but rather, God is making us perfect eschatalogically.

By eschatalogically, I mean that we are already perfect, holy and everything God intends us to be by Baptism into Christ. Brothers, we are children of God NOW, we are completely holy NOW. The fact that we cannot see this perfection or measure this present holiness now is due to the fact that we are still 100% sinners. But the fact that we are still 100% sinner does not diminish nor conradict that we are already 100% holy.

The fact that the eternal life that we possess as Christians is hidden in this world (even from us) and can be known only by faith in Christ's Word--does not make this life any less living.

Empirically speaking, it is not possible to add any more to what is complete. We cannot increase in eternal life or holiness in a mathematical way.

But this doesn't hinder the Lord. He continues to give to what is perfect and add to what is complete; "my cup runneth over".

Mathematics won't do any better in discussing our sanctification than it will in discussing the presence of our Lord's body and blood with the bread and wine of His Supper.

So I will quote what Luther said in regard to arguments over the Supper with Zwingli and apply it here to our discussion of "progressive sanctification":

"No Mathematics!"

William Weedon said...

Okay, at the risk of Paul's censure, I must respond to both Bill and Robert:

"However, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleaness. Then we will come forth glorious and arise in a new, eternal life of entire and perfect holiness. For now are only half pure and holy. So the Holy Spirit always has some reason to continue His work in us through the Word. He must daily administer forgiveness until we reach the life to come. At that time there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people. We will be full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body."

Now, such is the DOCTRINE of the Lutheran Church regarding sanctification. Didn't sound terribly totum totum to me. And it is of course by Luther in the Larger Catechism (II:57,58).

As for the Law being the final word: DUH! Final in this sense: the Law is only and always about love. God is love. And though the law instructing us in what love is can never make us loving, the Gospel can and does begin a work of renewal in us that literally transforms us from one degree of glory to another. That pesky passage in St. Paul.

Fire away, gentlemen. On this point, I think the Symbols and the Scriptures are utterly clear.

Rev. Robert W. said...

Yes, utterly clear -- as long as you cling only to that pesky passage and that Luther quote. The trouble is that there are other pesky passages and other Luther quotes, and taken by themselves, as William has taken these particular ones by themselves, you come up with a DIFFERENT DOCTRINE! I shall resist the temptation to engage the process of dualing passages and dual assertions from the Symbols. The only solution is in holding these commpetative Scriptural and Symbolical thoughts as paradox.

The "Law" however, that concerns us with regard to Article II, is not described by St. Paul as "Love." It is described this way: "the law was ADDED!" This is neither (and must be neither, or language takes a holiday) the Law of love, nor the immutable will of God (neither of which can be described as "added"). That "added" Law condemns me just as thoroughly now as at any previous time in my life -- it allows me to see NO improvement in myself over against its accusation, on account of which I must say with St. Paul -- with the mature, and inspired St. Paul -- "Oh, wretched man that I AM (not just that I was, previously, to some greated degree than now). This added Law points to a NATURE within me that -- unless this Law be cancelled/fulfilled -- has, does, and will damn me for sure. That NATURE is original sin, which is truly sin, and is not reformable. And THAT is what is described in Article II (so noted as to bring relief to our blog-master as to the course of this discussion overagainst the precise topic of this Article). In fact, the reason for the inevitable debate that we are having wrt Article II AS Lutherans is that Lutheran DOCTRINE asserts an understanding of Original Sin that is NOT shared by Rome, nor by the East, nor by the Protestants and Enthusiasts, who each have their own twist to what Scripture says about original sin, precisely to relieve the tension and resolve the paradox that is perpetually found in Lutheran doctrine on this and all the articles of the Gospel.

Robert. [Schaibley]

William Weedon said...


Dang you, pull out your dueling passages from the Symbols. You are taking all the fun out of this. ;)

Seriously, if you believe that I am misreading what the Scriptures and the Symbols say, I would appreciate the correction. But it seems that what I quoted from the Larger Catechism is utterly of a piece with what Luther ALWAYS says about our sanctification. Certainly it was of a piece with that last recorded sermon of his that Paul cited for us earlier. What a gem that is! And it seems to be a consistent theme in him that runs straight through from *A Defense of All Articles* with its lovely "this life is not health, but healing."

Now, let me state unequivocally:

1. The Law always accuses - and this whether it is the Law "added" or the Law viewed as simply the will of God for us to live in love. It will always accuse because despite the incipient and growing righteousness, the Law does not deal in progress; it demands perfection, nothing less. Didn't Luther say once that Mr. Moses cuts no deals?
2. I completely reject the statement that "that nature is original sin." I know you love Flacius, but beware of such talk. The nature is NOT sin. The nature is infected, corrupted, and distorted by the original sin that inheres in it. But to speak of the nature of the sin, well, I'm sure you simply didn't mean to do so, did you? You know what the Formula teaches on that.

Now, play fair and throw me down some passages. : )

William Weedon said...

Thinking of Franzmann just made me think of another way to put it. He spoke of how our Lord walked in an unbroken "yes" to the will of the Father. We walk in a growing "yes" through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but it doesn't matter if that "yes" gets up 98% yes before we die, the Law will still accuse us because it demands a 100% yes, and a yes that is utterly joyful and free and never coerced. So before the throne of God we can only plead our Lord's "unbroken yes" as done for us as our righteousness. But to live UNDER His "unbroken yes" is invariably to live in a "growing" yes; a life that seeks to live under HIS "yes" and yet merrily goes on in its own "No!" is a life that is a contradiction. As Luther put it in LC IV - in such a life Baptism is not being used, but resisted.

William Weedon said...

And here's a question maybe for Ryan or some other Confessional scholar (this boy is not one):

Is the Formula's lacing of the "healing of the nature" language consciously done in opposition to Flacius?

William Weedon said...

Oh, and one last thought (I think!):

The more one grows in a "yes" toward the will of God, the more accutely one becomes aware of how much "no!" toward God remains in one's life. The nearer one draws to the Holy One, the more one's unholiness becomes manifest. Thus, in all the saints the mark of true sanctity is never pointing to their "progress" but in their unceasing pleas for God's mercy and forgiveness for the greatness of their sin. I think especially of the meditations of St. Ephrem the Syrian in this regard.

revcwirla said...

"The trouble is that there are other pesky passages and other Luther quotes, and taken by themselves, as William has taken these particular ones by themselves, you come up with a DIFFERENT DOCTRINE!"

Hey, wait a minute. What did William do?

By the way, why wasn't my recent post posted. It was characteristically brilliant, brief, and to the point of ORIGINAL SIN, which is supposed to be the topic until our dear brother Weedon whisked us off to the hospital to get better progressively.

In my lost post I noted the Christocentricity of the article on original sin. While detractors of this article complain that it denigrates our humanity, in fact it accentuates and extols Jesus Christ. The antidote for our inborn, hereditary sickness and death is found not in our flesh but in the sinless flesh of Jesus Christ. The various Pelagians (ancient and modern), in elevating humanity, diminish and disparage the sufferings and merits of Christ.

Article II is the perfect stepping stone to Article III and the doctrine of Christ, which I hope we will get to shortly.

Are we going to consider the Apology or will that be for the year 2010?

wcwirla said...

"Fire away, gentlemen."

I reserve fire for my enemies, not a brother and fellow drinker at the Gospel bar.

The original topic, I believe, is Original Sin, at least it was until our dear Brother Weedon put us on the road to recovery. I think the later anxieties within Lutheranism to which the Formula attests might best be reserved for, well, later.

I note the Christocentricity of this article pertaining to the total corruption of our humanity due to the inbred, hereditary sin of Father Adam, a sickness whose antidote is the sinless flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ. The usual criticism from the synergists and various Pelagians (ancient and modern) is that such a teaching denigrates our humanity and deprives us of free will. The confessors point out that this teaching actually extols and magnifies the work of Christ.

I further note how the "treatment" of this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is not rehab, as the synergists would have it, but rebirth "through Baptism and the Holy Spirit."

I continue to be impressed by the fact that Lutheran theology is an organic whole, centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Article II is natually followed by Article III on Christ, the 2nd Adam and new Head of humanity, whose sinless flesh conceived and born in an extraordinary manner rescues Adam's flesh from sin and death.

A question: Are we going to take up the Apology at the same time as the articles of the Augustana. Melanchthon has many wonderful elucidations in this article, which drew predictably heavy fire from the papal Pelagians.

wcwirla said...

Please disregard the revcwirla post. That was my evil twin writing. Actually, it was a post that didn't posted but then did, of which the second wcwirla post was a more refined version. In fact, disregard anything revcwirla says on this blog. He belongs on Blogosphere.

When in doubt, do whatever Fouts says. ; )

Jon Bischof said...

Bill Cwirla's evil twin (who not surprisingly likes to be called "Rev") is a good illustration that every Christian is: whole saint and whole sinner at the same time...

And NOT partially Old Man and partially New Man with a gradual, incremental growth of the New Man and a gradual decrease of the Old Man.

Yes, we are aware that the totus/totus teaching does not add up (literally) in regard to math and logic.

You are that evil twin 100% and he is not getting any better, he is not "healing" or reforming. He is, as Dr. Brighton once said: "a bastard child of Satan till the day you die!"

Your evil twin is as evil now as he was when he was conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity. He doesn't need a hospital but a gas-chamber or the gallows. He cannot be reformed, but only killed.

On the other hand, the hand of Gospel blessing, you are a new creation. And as it is with all God's acts of creation, this happened suddenly and instantaneously--not a gradual evolution over billions of years!

You are a new man now (eschatalogically speaking, so put away the measuring tape and growth calculator!). The consummation of our actual righteousness and the revealing of Christ's glory within us will take place just as instantaneously and non-incrementally; "in the twinkling of an eye".

The best news of the Good News is that although we stand as Old Man/New Man now; the New Man will be the last man standing!

wcwirla said...

I have noticed that revcwirla isn't wearing his clericals as often as he used to. I'm not sure if that's any sign of progress or in what direction. "Oh wretched man that I am."

Eric Phillips said...

To say that sanctification is progressive is not to say that the Old Man becomes less evil, but rather that the Christian thinks and acts more often as the New Man, and less often as the Old. It's one of those 1-person-2-natures things.

William Weedon said...


It is not the OLD MAN who is being transformed. It is the human nature which is being healed. An incremental healing that will remain unfinished in this life. Again to cite the Formula on Original Sin: "Furthermore, HUMAN NATURE, which is perverted and corrupted by original sin, must and can be HEALED only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. However, this healing is only begun in this life. It will not be perfect until the life to come." FC SD I:14

No one is talking about healing the old Adam. The healing of the human nature takes place by both the death of the old Adam and the daily coming forth of a new man.

William Weedon said...


It is not the OLD MAN who is being transformed. It is the human nature which is being healed. An incremental healing that will remain unfinished in this life. Again to cite the Formula on Original Sin: "Furthermore, HUMAN NATURE, which is perverted and corrupted by original sin, must and can be HEALED only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. However, this healing is only begun in this life. It will not be perfect until the life to come." FC SD I:14

No one is talking about healing the old Adam. The healing of the human nature takes place by both the death of the old Adam and the daily coming forth of a new man.

William Weedon said...


See also for this Examine I:337

"We have learned from Scripture that remission of all sins takes place in Baptism through the death and resurrection of Christ and that this is not superficial, nor halved or partial, but full and perfect, so that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We learn also this from the Scripture that Baptism is the washing of regeneration and renewing through the Holy Spirit. In place of the original defect, therefore, the Holy Spirit works new gifts, spiritual powers, and impulses in the regenerate. *He also begins to heal our nature, to mortify and crucify the old man with his faults, evil lusts, and actions of the flesh; to put off and destroy the body of sin; to put off the old man; to purge out the old leaven, etc. These things we believe, teach, and confess."

wcwirla said...

The Chemnitz quote from the Examen is particularly helpful in fleshing out the paradox at play here.

In Christ, our sanctification is complete, whole, and entire (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Cor 6:11; Heb 10:10).

In our selves, we remain "works in progress" (Rom 6:22; 2 Cor 3:18) through daily dying and rising, becoming in ourselves what we already are in Christ, something that is complete only when we finally and ultimately die and rise in ourselves (or are changed in a twinkling of an eye), when we will be in ourselves what we are, and have always been, in Christ.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is very helpful in this regard, wherein we are raised, seated, and glorified in Christ awaiting the coming ages in which the incomparable riches of His grace are shown. Now this must be believed.

Jon C. Bischof said...

Will: Thanks for the clarifications and the pertinent quotes. Now that we are all on the same page, another question is raised. You probably already thought of it.

Since the healing of our human nature is only begun in this life and not perfect until the day of resurrection, we would do well to identify all that belongs to this beginning and to distinguish the new powers that the Holy Spirit works in our human nature from the "healing" of our human nature which we still lack in this life.

Among the new powers which belong to the regenerate is the ability to trust God (first and foremost) and also the ability to say 'no' to sin, to hate sin and the ability to begin to have God-pleasing thoughts and do God-pleasing works. But all of these new powers belong to me only as New Man, as a child of God.

Outwardly, I am still wasting away. I am going bald and my spine is degenerating.

And yet, if I understand you rightly, these new spiritual powers which I have through Baptism and exercise through daily repentance and forgiveness are actually slowly and incrementally cleansing my human nature of its inborn corruption; but will not be complete healing until the resurrection.

Is this a more accurate take on what you have been saying? I'm sure you can say what you mean better than I can. But I'm just trying to get a clearer picture of what you mean by healing of the human nature.

wcwirla said...

"It is not the OLD MAN who is being transformed. It is the human nature which is being healed."

I agree. The burden of the Formula is to argue against the notion that original sin can be equated with the human nature instead of being a total corruption of it.

Indeed, the Formula uses sanitive language (Latin sanari, German heilen) to describe the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit "in this life" (in diesem Leben) as it goes on "in us" (the Latin of the SD has in nobis). This is viewed in contrast to "in that life" or the life to come. The authors of the Formula are quite in tune with the now/not yet exchatological paradox.

In ourselves, in this life, the regenerative work of the Spirit appears and is experienced as progressive. In Christ, in the life to come, it is always whole and entire, completed literally "from the foundations of the world" (see Ephesians 1 with its string of aorists).

William Weedon said...


Yes, that is what I was trying to say - evidently not too well.


Yes! I know that the sanitive lingo is abused by those who import it into the article of justification; but I think it is significant that it shows up in either end (AC and Formula) of the discussion of original sin. Its abuse was not sufficient for the Church to drop it. Its use could be "healed!"

Paul T. McCain said...

Bill Cwirla, please go ahead and start our next roundtable. I had my post all ready to go, forgot to save it, so..go for it. Just use the same format as the other Roundtable posts so they are easy to find in the archive.

Thanks for the interesting discussion here guys. It's time to move on to a conversation about ... Christ. What could be better?