Friday, May 3, 2013

Lutheran Sanctification: strenghts

Lutheran View
The first view of sanctification that will be addressed is the Lutheran view. In the Lutheran view, sanctification is not to be separated from justification. Gerhard O. Forde notes that “Sanctification is thus simply the art of getting used to justification” (13). Lutherans see a danger is separating the two, for the importance of justification is downplayed by human efforts that undermine God’s work. Forde makes it clear that justification and sanctification cannot be separated when he says, “sanctification cannot in any way be separated from justification. It is not merely a logical mistake, but a spiritually devastating one. If fact, the Scriptures, rarely, if ever, treat sanctification as a movement distinct from justification” (16). For Lutherans, a correct understanding of justification by faith alone (completely monergistic) should lead to overcoming sin, which for Lutherans, is “the total state of standing against the unconditional grace and goodness of God, … our very incredulity, unbelief, mistrust, our insistence of falling back on our own self and maintaining control” (27-28). Rather than seeing the Christian life as a journey focused on heaven, the end goal of Lutheran sanctification is that Christians will truly understand they have been saved by grace alone, and will be as human as God intended for humans to be.
The Lutheran position does have certain strengths that should be commended. One strength would be that the Lutheran position seeks maintain God’s sovereignty in salvation and to elevate the greatness of God’s grace. Forde points out how “God alone does the justifying simply by declaring the ungodly to be so, for Jesus’ sake” (15). He then argues that if sanctification becomes dependant upon humans in any way, it could potentially affect God’s work in justification. While Lutherans err in this logic, they still are to be commended for trying to maintain a strong view of grace and God’s sovereignty, and to guard against bringing human works into the equation of salvation. A second strength is the focus Lutherans place on justification. Correctly understanding what justification accomplished for sinners and how it enables them to live changed lives is something that every Christian, including Ernie, needs to understand. Along with this, the Lutheran view points out the unconditional promises associated with justification. The unconditional promises remove human works from the equation and give Christians security in knowing God will always do what He has promised. By stressing the importance of justification and the unconditional promises, Lutherans are trying to bring Christians back to focus on what Christ has done for them, and to rest securely in His promises. A third strength of the Lutheran view is the emphasis on the Christian’s newness in Christ as a result of justification. Forde notes, “Sin is a slavery from which we escape only through that death [death of the old man]” (21). While the Lutheran view is wrong in areas of the difference between the new and old man, their view is important in showing that the death of the old self has real meaning.

(Forde is cited in Christian Spirituality: 5 Views of Sanctification from his chapter on Lutheran Sanctification. Any other source will be noted as to the specific work and page.)

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