Forde and his defenders: The Fall

bobsailing

The following conversation features my response to an ardent defender of Gerhard Forde, whom I will refer to as Bob — sorry if Bob’s your uncle.

…starting in medias res…

Bob: I think there are a couple of things going on here that we have to be careful of. Forde is an excellent theologian because he brings Luther’s “down to earth” approach to light. Many don’t like him because he brings Jesus into a very human realm that many tend to ignore about Luther’s theology. As for Bonhoeffer, if you read his works, which contain more theology in a paragraph than most theologians write in their lifetime, you can see an evolution in thought. He mentions this in one of his letters to Bethge. He originally studied under Barth, who is a brilliant theologian in his own right, but ultimately a universalist. Bonhoeffer later attacks Barth for some of his unorthodox ideas.

I’m not reading anything in that article other than anecdotal commentary, which always makes me cautious about the finger pointing. Don’t know much about Paulson, but Forde deserves to be defended.

For those who might not know, the third use of the law is thought to be a calvinistic addition, kinda like the altered Augsburg confession. There is no proof anywhere that Luther ever used or suggested a third use. Honestly I have issues with it myself because it opens the door for what evangelical fundamentalists use, which is fear of hell to make people choose between heaven and hell, rather than see their inherent sin and rely exclusively on the person of Jesus and the salvation that his sacrifice holds by entering into communion with him alone.

John Doe: I’m reading On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Forde. I wonder how much in that book is questionable?

Sven St-Claire (Trent Demarest, me): That’s the book where Forde denies the Fall:

“Indeed, so seductive has the exiled soul myth been throughout history that the biblical story itself has been taken into captivity by it. The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul. The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that. Adam, originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace was tempted by baser lusts and ‘fell,’ losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a ‘mass of perdition'” (On Being a Theologian of the Cross, p. 6).

Just to level with you: I got on Facebook pretty much for the sole purpose of counteracting the influence of “Radical Lutheranism” among my confessional Lutheran brothers and sisters. It is a deeply, deeply heterodox movement in theology that we should not borrow from, even for its ostensible “strengths”, which I remain unconvinced by. I am the author of the blog where this article is featured. Since you are a new Lutheran, I feel like I would be remiss if I did not warn you in these terms. The “Fordean error”, for lack of better shorthand, is pernicious, despite how good the intentions of the scholars of the “Luther renaissance” may have been. A dear old pastor friend of mine put it thusly:

“It seems to me that the excesses and absurdities of ‘Radical Lutheranism’ are what the Roman church suspected were lurking in Luther’s teaching; of course, they were not! But that’s the kind of thing that I can imagine a church pronouncing anathemas against, and rightly. It’s not sacramental, it’s not ecclesial — it’s fideism! Its focus is on nuda scriptura, not sola scriptura. I just see that sort of thing as culminating in libertinism and despair — ennui, really. You know, it savors of Bultmann! Everything happens in the preaching! It’s almost as though it doesn’t matter whether Christ actually rose — because He ‘rises in the act of preaching’!” – Rev. Fr. Nat Wilk Clerk

I agree completely.

Bob: Instead of quote mining I think we should look at Forde’s entire premise there. The quote is taken way out of context, and there is a footnote to explain his thesis:

“So said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Poet Laureate of American sentimentality, in ‘A Psalm of Life.’ Even in a supposedly secular age the myth continues to appeal to basic religious aspirations. The widespread belief in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation among ‘New Age’ religions and such bears witness to that. Indeed, so seductive has the exiled soul myth been throughout history that the biblical story itself has been taken into captivity by it. The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul. (5) The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that. Adam, originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace was tempted by baser lusts and ‘fell,’ losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a ‘mass of perdition.’ Reparation must be made, grace restored, and purging carried out so that return to glory is possible. The cross, of course, can be quite neatly assimilated into the story as the reparation that makes the return possible. And there we have a tightly woven theology of glory!”

And the footnote:

5. See ibid., 330ff. In his typology Ricoeur speaks of the biblical story as “the Adam myth.” What has happened is that the Adam story has been interpreted by the exiled soul story. The “fall” is the story of the “exile” of the soul from its true home.

If you read the entire thing he’s pointing out that the use of the “fall” (as indicated by the quotation marks), is being perverted for some other reason which he explains when read in context.

And here is the actual Theology of Glory that Forde is pointing out, which is NOT his own:

Paul Ricouer’s Myths of Evil in Biblical Perspective

Me: I’m not quote mining, and Forde is still wrong, the broader context notwithstanding. He is also claiming that Adam did not possess original inherent righteousness in the Garden, which is false, and also claiming that the fall was in some sense the natural outworking of the innate flaws and weakness (i.e., sin) which God had built into His creation. This verges on Gnosticism. All of this is at least partially due to Forde’s heavy reliance on the relational ontology of “speech-act” existentialist philosophy, which denies that there is any such thing as inherent essence or substance. This makes confessing such a thing as a “good” creation difficult, and presents obvious problems for the Incarnation.

Bob: Actually that was quote mining, if you read what you quoted in context you can see that he is pointing out the errors in it. I’ve even given a link to the original theological position he is criticizing. Unless you have other examples of where Forde is wrong, in proper context, I can only dismiss what you are a posting as biased rhetoric.

Me: “Reparation must be made, grace restored, and purging carried out so that return to glory is possible…”

What Forde mocks here — the return to glory after a Fall from grace — is actually part and parcel of salvation. What caps our salvation is in fact glorification in the consummated new creation with all the saints in light, not some erasure of personhood in the immolating fire of Deus Absconditus. To stigmatize those who hold to the biblical teaching of glorification as purveyors of a “theology of glory” is misguided at best and more likely just completely perverse. It is a crying shame that many Lutherans — and I am not making this up — when they hear the juxtaposition “theology of the cross”/”theology of glory”, think not so much of the whole theology of Martin Luther as they do Forde tendentious and erroneous gloss of a select portion of it, contained in that infernal little tract, “On Being A Theologian of the Cross.”

I don’t think others are going to dismiss what I say, and that’s what I care about the most — I am here to warn. Not interested in a pissing contest. Enjoy Forde.

“Actually that was quote mining, if you read what you quoted in context you can see that he is pointing out the errors in it.”

No, you’re just…wrong. You want Forde’s gloss on his own theology, read Where God Meets Man, and get back to me.

Bob: You do understand again that in context Forde is using the word “Glory” in the way that Luther intended it with contrast to the theology of glory and theology of the cross. If you are saying that his use of glory there is incorrect then you are dismissing the entire Heidelberg Disptuation as bunk. He also points that out in his writing that the theology of glory he is citing is different from the Glory we experience in God. So again, this is more quote mining without putting it in proper context just to castigate him. Very dishonest.

Jack Doe: I often hear pastors say regarding Forde that you have to ‘swallow the meat and spit out the bones. I get that but I’d rather just read a theologian who got all or most of it right.

Also, there is an Early Church Father quote that I read years ago that has stuck with me:

“It will therefore be incumbent upon thee, and all others who give their attention to this writing, and are anxious about their own salvation, not readily to express acquiescence when they hear abroad the speeches of these men: for, speaking things resembling the [doctrine of the] faithful, as I have already observed, not only do they hold opinions which are different, but absolutely contrary, and in all points full of blasphemies, by which they destroy those persons who, by reason of the resemblance of the words, imbibe a poison which disagrees with their constitution, just as if one, giving lime mixed with water for milk, should mislead by the similitude of the colour; as a man superior to me has said, concerning all that in any way corrupt the things of God and adulterate the truth, ‘Lime is wickedly mixed with the milk of God.’ (St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, ANF Vol. I, pp 445-446).

In ancient times, dishonest milk merchants would mix chalk (lime) with water and mix it into milk to increase their sales. The poisoned milk wouldn’t kill the drinker immediately but over time would slowly cause Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, AbdominalPain, Bleeding and/or tissue-ulceration in the drinker.

I prefer my spiritual milk undiluted, Thank You!

Me: Well, now people have two views of Forde, yours and mine, which they can bear in mind if they choose to read him. So you can stop impugning my honesty any time. I believe that can get you removed from this group.

“You do understand again that in context Forde is using the word ‘Glory’ in the way that Luther intended it with contrast to the theology of glory and theology of the cross.”

For the benefit of those reading, note that the foregoing is bald assertion. Especially the argument from intent.

“If you are saying that his use of glory there is incorrect then you are dismissing the entire Heidelberg Disptuation as bunk.”

And that is a faulty inductive leap, based upon the begged premise. Petitio principii.

Do be careful not to get taken in by this short of logic! Good day.

Bob: I actually have read Where God Meets Man. He makes it clear in that book that God’s action is from the top down and that climbing the ladder is a fruitless work. I actually have it if you want to discuss something in particular. As for impugning your honesty, if you quote mine out of context to say that Forde was supporting something that he was actually criticizing, that would count as dishonesty to me.

Joseph Doe: Sven, I have seen you wage battles with confessional types. Thank you for the blog. I have wondered at the captivation so many of our confessional types have with Forde and others.

Me: Thank you Joseph. You are very welcome.

Oh, and a slight correction — I wage battles with “confessional” types, i.e., those who cling to confessional as a label but read the actual Confessions through an obfuscatory and selective lens, such as Forde, or even Sasse, who, for all his merits, is still not a good heuristic guide for the Confessions. Such readings are ahistorical and anachronistic and they end up creating problems down the road.

Remember that we Lutherans are Evangelical Catholics. We are not radicals. Soli Deo Gloria!

Bob: This is one of the reasons that I don’t engage with other lutherans on a regular basis, the hypocritical polarization. I’m not interested in the LCMS vs. ELCA argument. I could really care less about a few christians that have gone sour and need to be redirected back into the fold (i.e. the goddess worship scandal). What I am interested in is honesty. The purpose of the Church is reconciliation, not judgment of how worthy someone is to be a Lutheran, unless of course you want to become a Lutheran papist.

The point is that you were wrong in your accusations against an author that you have misrepresented. No matter how much fluff you want to throw up it doesn’t change that fact and I’ve backed my assertion with the correct information. You are looking to castigate rather than represent a position correctly. That’s clear in your misrepresentation of Forde’s point about the criticism of a theology that he disagrees with. It also is clear in that you haven’t taken into consideration Forde’s very clear distinction when using the word glory in terms of the theology of glory and the glory of God. Luther himself makes that distinction. So yes, I’ve called into question your honesty and understanding of a piece of literature that you don’t seem to have any understanding of.

Me: I’d like to cede the rest of my remaining time to my opponent, Bob, whose continued reiteration of the same fallacies demonstrates what I have outlined in all of my foregoing comments far better than I could do were I to continue this debate.

Pax.

John Doe: Sven, I’m not sure of you familiarity with Tullian Tdjividjian, the PCA Pastor, but would you warn about him as well? He sometimes quotes Forde. Just curious.

Me:  I actually would warn you about Tullian. He’s well intentioned, but he has no room for the sacraments. In short, he’s still very much Reformed, not Lutheran. And the Lutherans by whom he is most influenced are very non-sacramental. However, Pr. Tullian is in regular contact with a Lutheran friend of mine (who is also a Lutheran pastor) who I know makes an effort to present historic Lutheran orthodoxy to him in their interactions.

John Doe: Understood, Sven, thanks.

Me: The problem with the “Radical Lutheran” theologians is that they stress the existential aspect of the Gospel — which is true, and real, and not to be discounted — to a sort of reductio ad absurdum, thus doing injury to the historical dimension of the Gospel. The two must be maintained respective of each other. My spiritual director (an elderly Lutheran pastor in Baltimore who does not wish to enter into the fracas, and thus will remain nameless) describes them in the following manner:

“It seems to me that the excesses and absurdities of ‘Radical Lutheranism’ are what the Roman church suspected were lurking in Luther’s teaching; of course, they were not! But that’s the kind of thing that I can imagine a church pronouncing anathemas against, and rightly. It’s not sacramental, it’s not ecclesial — it’s fideism! Its focus is on nuda scriptura, not sola scriptura. I just see that sort of thing as culminating in libertinism and despair — ennui, really. You know, it savors of Bultmann! Everything happens in the preaching! It’s almost as though it doesn’t matter whether Christ actually rose — because He ‘rises in the act of preaching’!”

This was definitely my experience as an undergraduate. When my Roman Catholic professors would talk about Lutherans, they referred to a straw-man, i.e., they described not actual Lutheranism, but this radically reductionistic existentialized “Luther-ite” thought. They just quoted Luther’s “greatest hits”, including all of the apocryphal bits: “Reason is a whore”; “Snow-covered dunghill”; “Sin boldly”; “James is an epistle of straw”; etc. And it was an understandable error on their part! But it was tragic and unfortunate and, ultimately, false.

Bob: Sven, claiming that someone is committing fallacies doesn’t equate to the person actually committing those fallacies.

I’ve backed up my information with a direct quote in context of the material you have quote mined. I also included the footnote and the referent theological explanation of the very thing that the author is criticizing. I’ve also had to point out the distinction of a term that you conveniently failed to make which would have given proper perspective to the text in question.

So which fallacy have I committed considering I have stayed within the boundary of the material that you yourself have presented?

Me: Thanks for this, Matthew. I was not aware that you were ELCA.

I look forward to writing a more detailed response when I have time. Enjoy your day.

Bob: Sven, what does my synodical affiliation, which I haven’t exposed, have anything to do with the fact that you have misrepresented someone’s intent in what they wrote? It goes to show that you aren’t interested in the truth but only in castigating a portion of the population you don’t like.

Jane Doe: Forde is ELCA. So I am not surprised when ELCA folks like him and defend him.

Matthew Wilson Julie, I don’t care if someone is LCMS or ELCA. Misrepresenting someone is still a dishonest thing to do and I would call it out regardless.

Or has this turned into an ELCA bashing contest where the worst insults about the ELCA win, forgoing any type of honest discussion. Just make it up about the ELCA and everyone should agree or they are wrong for disagreeing?

Jane Doe: I see it as wrestling with Forde’s ideas, Bob. And that’s a good thing. Bring it to the light and expose it to scripture to see if it lines up.

There are Lutherans affiliated with the LCMS who recommend Forde before the Confessions. That to me is a problem. In fact, I may have done just that in the past. No more, though.

Bob: Sure, Jane, I don’t think that he should be put before the Confessions. He certainly isn’t a Chemnitz, but let’s not forget that the Confessions aren’t Scripture, and putting them before Scripture is just as egregious.

I don’t agree with everything that Forde writes, he’s a bit too touchy-feely for me which appeals to the enthusiasts more than it should. After reading him I have to read some Braaten to get grounded again. Does that mean that his theological stance is incorrect on all points or his writing style negates his credibility? Certainly not! I can criticize him where I feel it’s appropriate and give him credit where it is due, regardless of where another person places him in light of the confessions, and ultimately scripture. However having said that, I don’t agree wholly with ANY theologian out there. Unless their theological stance is so beyond recognition of scriptural integrity, I’m loathe to call it heresy or anathema.

And even more beyond this, I refuse to misrepresent or be dishonest about anyone’s position simply to make them, or their affiliated group look bad in the eyes of other, which is what’s happening here. Regardless of what you agree or disagree with Forde on, this is blatantly dishonest to misrepresent him in this way, which is what I’m saying needs to be addressed.

Jane Doe: Well, I’ve had my fill of Forde. I’m moving on to better things. I hope folks reading through here can glean what they need.

Me: Quia subscription to the Book of Concord does wonders for keeping one’s theology sound.

Justin Doe: Our Confessions are a summary of what Scripture teaches. To go against them is to go against what we confess about the Word of God. So disagreeing with or misrepresenting the Confessions is a big deal.

Bob: I suggest you read more of the authors of the Confessions and what Luther taught about extra-biblical sources. They clearly state that NO other authority should be put on the same level of authority with Scripture under any circumstances. The Confessions are NOT to be put on the same level or above Scripture.

May I be so bold as to draw attention to a quote from the good doctor himself:

“Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it because, roused by a Saturnian hunger, I would rather see them all devoured. For I acknowledge none of them to be really a book of mine, except perhaps the one On the Bound Will and the Catechism.”

Justin Doe: With that attitude, its little wonder the ELCA is apostate.

Even my pastor in the ELCE (Evangelical Lutheran Church of England) warned me about Forde’s third use of the law/antinomian issues. So its just not a LCMS v. ELCA thing.

Me: “May I be so bold as to draw attention to a quote from the good doctor himself:

‘Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it because, roused by a Saturnian hunger, I would rather see them all devoured. For I acknowledge none of them to be really a book of mine, except perhaps the one On the Bound Will and the Catechism.'”

Droll. It’s funny…but then again…is that statement confessional? Seems to me like it’s an “extra-biblical source”.

Jeremy Doe: I would put it this way: Since the Confessions systematize the doctrine of Holy Writ, the confessions are also the analogy of faith. When you find your theology to be in conflict with the confessions, this is because you theology is also in conflict with the Scriptures.

Therefore one cannot use the cop-out “The confessions are not above Scripture” as a way to disregard what the confessions say. Rather one should ask, “What in Scripture led the confessors to confess what they did?” In pursuing this fruitful study you will soon find that the confessions were nor wrong, but were, in fact, teaching the doctrine of Scripture.

Me: And if you find that you don’t think so…

…kindly stop identifying as a Lutheran.

Justin Doe: Right, Sven, if you hold to our Confessions you’re less likely, to say, hold a conference and take a vote on whether the Bible is the Word of God or not, and then appoint gay and women pastors to your congregations.

Bob: And again Martin, we have absolutley no proof that Luther’s theology ever included a third use. Did you already forget that Calvin had influence on what went into the BoC through Melanchthon? Rejecting the third use is within the structure of lutheran theology, even if it does contradict the confessions, or maybe you would like to go back to the original altered augsburg confession as well.

Me: YES. There it is. Keep going, Bob. I’m making popcorn.

Justin Doe: The Formula of Concord which has clear third use of the law statements, was written by Chemnitz.

Jeremy Doe: Wow, Matthew. That is so historically absurd that I don’t know what to say.

Justin Doe: I can recall one Luther quote about a “busy faith” that would tear that assumption to shreds, Matthew.

Bob: Ahem, from an LCMS website.

“The ancient creeds in the Book of Concord were prepared by early church pastors and theologians. Philip Melanchthon, a layman, was a professor of Greek and theology at the University of Wittenberg. He was chiefly responsible for writing the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. Martin Luther wrote the Small and Large Catechisms and the Smalcald Articles. A group of Lutheran theologians prepared the Formula of Concord. They were Jacob Andreae, Martin Chemnitz, Nicholas Selnecker, David Chytraeus, Andrew Musculus, and Christopher Koerner.”

Justin Doe: “Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and brings with it the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are any good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faithless man. He gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.” (Luther in his preface to Romans commentary)

Bob: And it’s well known that historically Melanchthon was highly influenced by John Calvin.

Jeremy Doe: Bob, did you read what you wrote?

If you took the time to do any research into the FoC at all, you would know that it was written as a refutation and corrective of Melanchthon’s post-Luther theology. Melanchthon was dead when the Formula was written

Justin Doe: There are no influences from Calvin in the Augsburg Confession, or the Apology. There were prior confessions to the Augsburg, on which it was based.

Jeremy Doe: Seriously, Bob, show us the Calvinism in the UAC, the Apology, and the Treatise. Put up or shut up.

Justin Doe: I can’t help feeling that your conspiratorial meanderings about how the BoC was put together is some sort of veiled denial of our Confessions. Anyone else getting that vibe?

Calvin broke from the Roman Catholic church in the same year as the Augsburg Confession was published. 1530. I doubt Melanchthon knew the guy prior, since Luther and his followers (like Melancthon) had separated years before.

Melancthon called Zwingli’s view of the Lord’s Supper as an ‘impious dogma’. Hardly Calvinistic, and that was in 1529.

Jeremy Doe: Most (but not all) of Melanchthon’s capitulation on the Lord’s Supper can be traced to after Luther’s death. In particular, as to how Melanchthon applied the nihil rule to deny the Real Presence except in the eating and drinking. In later years he even went so far as to deny the substantial presence of Christ in the bread and wine, and even denigrated the terminology “true body and blood” when he was contending with the gnesio-Lutherans. However, shortly before his death he began to use these terms again in confessing the Lord’s Supper. Even at his worst, he did not deny the corporal reception of the body and blood of Christ.

Justin Doe: And that was in the 1550s I think. It seems Bob wants us to believe that Melanchthon had those views back in the 1520s and was just hiding them.

Me: …I’m telling you guys…these Radical Lutherans — they’ll Bork everyone except Luther himself. But even their reading of Luther is terrible and selective.

Bob: First off…I said nothing about the UAC and calvinism. The UAC has been reasserted because of the altered confession which has calvinistic aspects to it. Please note the difference next time. I don’t know of any lutheran synod that doesn’t use the UAC. As for the third use of the law, here it is from someone in the LCMS.

Are you sure you aren’t an atheist Sven? I thought you were the one who was going to show me up and I have yet to see you answer my material other than “you’re wrong.”

Me: No, I’m not an atheist. How ’bout you? You an atheist? I am going to show you your errors.

Ciao!

Jeremy Doe: What material?

Bob: Sven, been promising that for hours now. and Martin have you been reading ANY of my posts, or are you just playing the out of sight out of mind game?

I truly feel like I’m arguing with atheists here. These are the same tactics they use. I won’t hold my breath though, I most likely won’t get a refutation.

Jeremy Doe: Bob, you are weaving around a lot here. On the one hand claiming that the Book of Concord (even the Formula!) was influenced by Melanchthon’s capitulation to Calvinism. You are the one that brought up the Variata in this regard. I challenged your poor understanding of the history of the BoC and you start talking about no Lutheran body accepting the Variata. Who said they did?

Me: Haha! This is great. Think days, not hours, and you might not be disappointed. I have…hmmm…what’s the best way to say this? A day job. But you’ll get your response. In the meantime, try to cultivate patience. And take a Valium or something.

Bob: No, Jeremy, I mentioned that Melanchthon was influenced by Calvin in the Altered Confession. You asserted I was talking about the unaltered confession, which I wasn’t. That’s an error on your part, not mine. The Variata was influenced by Calvin which I rightly pointed out. The third use was added by Melanchthon, which is historically accepted. This is after his time with and being influenced by Calvin, who interestingly enough adds it to the institutes as well. Even Walther had some issues with the third use. My suggestion is that you do a little more reading before assuming to tell someone they are wrong because of an assumed affiliation.

Sven, given your history for misquoting and misrepresenting, I would prefer you don’t mention me at all at this point.

Jeremy Doe: Bob, you deny the third use of the Law, and somehow want to make your position confessional. This requires you to denigrate the confessions. Specifically Article VI of the Formula. You tried to claim that the Formula is influenced by Melanchton (dragging the Variata into it – why?), and therefore untrustworthy. Where am I failing to understand?

Bob: Martin, the third use is directly and historically attributed to Melanchthon. I’ve given links on the topic, one from someone in your own synod.

Me: Jeremy, here is what Bob has been going on about: earlier on, I quoted Forde denying the orthodox understanding of the Fall:

“The unbiblical notionof a fall is already a clue to that. Adam, originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace was tempted by baser lusts and ‘fell,’ losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a “mass of perdition.”

Bob was sure that I was misquoting Forde — no, no, Forde was not denying the Fall! He provided the following context as proof; he writes:

“Instead of quote mining I think we should look at Forde’s entire premise there. The quote is taken way out of context, and there is a footnote to explain his thesis:

‘So said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Poet Laureate of American sentimentality, in “A Psalm of Life.” Even in a supposedly secular age the myth continues to appeal to basic religious aspirations. The widespread belief in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation among “New Age” religions and such bears witness to that. Indeed, so seductive has the exiled soul myth been throughout history that the biblical story itself has been taken into captivity by it. The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul. 5 (LOOK AT THE FOOTNOTE!!) The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that. Adam, originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace was tempted by baser lusts and “fell,” losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a “mass of perdition.” Reparation must be made, grace restored, and purging carried out so that return to glory is possible. The cross, of course, can be quite neatly assimilated into the story as the reparation that makes the return possible. And there we have a tightly woven theology of glory!’

“And the footnote:

‘5. See ibid., 330ff. In his typology Ricoeur speaks of the biblical story as “the Adam myth.” What has happened is that the Adam story has been interpreted by the exiled soul story. The “fall” is the story of the “exile” of the soul from its true home.’

“If you read the entire thing he’s pointing out that the use of the “fall” (as indicated by the quotation marks), is being perverted for some other reason which he explains when read in context.”

So far Bob.

Right. So, Forde compares professing belief in the classical doctrine of the Fall qua the loss of original inherent righteousness to believing in the transmigration of souls.

Forde says that the “the unbiblical notion of a ‘fall'” is one such myth which “continues to appeal to basic religious aspirations.”

Forde doesn’t believe that Adam was originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace — he mocks this idea.

Forde doesn’t believe that Adam was tempted by baser lusts and “fell” (thus he uses scare-quotes); he doesn’t believe that Adam lost grace and drew all his progeny with him into a “mass of perdition.” Forde stigmatizes this unquestionably orthodox doctrine as…you guessed it…a “theology of glory.” Huh.

Forde ridicules the idea that “Reparation must be made, grace restored, and purging carried out so that return to glory is possible,” otherwise known by orthodox theologians as “substitutionary atonement.” So ten points for consistency here; unfortunately, zero for orthodoxy.

Pace Forde (and, presumably, Bob), a return to glory is part of salvation, one which it is not mere vanity to desire. This is what communion is — a partaking of the divine nature of God, as St. Peter writes, in Whose image and likeness we were originally created. This is ultimately the goal of the Atonement — to bring us back to God.

So, Bob, you are twice wrong. Yet somehow I don’t think you’re going to admit it.

For the rest of you (you can read it, too, Matthew), my friend Quiet George has written an excellent piece on the classical Lutheran doctrine of the atonement. You can read it here.

PS. I won’t use your name in my piece. But I am sure as hell using your comments.

Bob: Sven, you don’t get it do you. Forde is criticizing a theology which he does NOT agree with. It’s very clear in the context and footnote. So what he is talking about and quoting is from the exiled soul myth by Ricoeur. It’s not his own stance and he calls it for what it is, a theology of glory, which in Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” is a BAD thing. Have you even read the Heidelberg Disputation or understand what Luther means by a theology of glory by chance?

Me: Wow. Just…wow. No, Bob. You’re just wrong on this one. Forde absolutely regarded the classical doctrine of the Fall to be unbiblical. You aren’t very good at…reading texts? Grammar? Uh…I don’t know.

Explain, line by line, the text that you quoted from Forde. Do it. I dare you. Explain each and every sentence to me. Then we’ll talk. Oh, believe me — I’m still going to respond. But I do not feel the same sense of urgency that you do, because your error is self evident to everyone reading this thread. And my saying so makes you feel like a martyr.

I’m actually extremely critical of the LCMS. But they’re certainly better on these questions than the ELCA. I am not LCMS, because I am not a pastor. I happen to attend an LMCS church, yes.

Bob: It’s going on over seven hours now with no refutation. You haven’t followed through on what you said you would, and now you want me to go line by line and show you were your misquoting of someone who is quoting someone else who he disagrees with is as simple as pointing out the footnote stating where the quote came from? Do you really think I’m not on to the whole burden shifting game. You made the statement incorrectly, I corrected you and I’m still waiting for the grand refutation. But as I’ve said, it won’t come because ALL you have is pejoratives.

Me: Oh, man! Bob! You won! You repeated yourself enough times that…everything just changed!

Here you go, everybody; Bob, you’re free to read along.

ONCE AGAIN…

“Even in a supposedly secular age the myth continues to appeal to basic religious aspirations. The widespread belief in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation among ‘New Age’ religions and such bears witness to that. Indeed, so seductive has the exiled soul myth been throughout history that the biblical story itself has been taken into captivity by it. The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul. 5 (LOOK AT THE FOOTNOTE!!) The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that. Adam, originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace was tempted by baser lusts and “fell,” losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a “mass of perdition.” Reparation must be made, grace restored, and purging carried out so that return to glory is possible. The cross, of course, can be quite neatly assimilated into the story as the reparation that makes the return possible. And there we have a tightly woven theology of glory!”

And the footnote:

5. See ibid., 330ff. In his typology Ricœur speaks of the biblical story as “the Adam myth.” What has happened is that the Adam story has been interpreted by the exiled soul story. The “fall” is the story of the “exile” of the soul from its true home.

In the footnote, Forde quotes Paul Ricœur, yes, but he is not disagreeing with him. Forde, speaking for himself, says, “What has happened is that the Adam story has been interpreted by the exiled soul story” and “The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul” and “The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that.” By saying this, Forde is not saying that there’s “a biblical notion of the fall” and “an unbiblical notion of the fall”; no, he is saying that the notion of the fall IS ITSELF unbiblical. In Forde’s theological paradigm, Adam didn’t “fall.”

Forde is NOT denying that THE EVENT happened. He is denying that it can rightly be called THE FALL. Because in Forde’s view, there was nothing to fall from, i.e., Adam was NOT in a state of grace; he was always essentially (though Forde would not put it this way) a sinner, and thus non posse non peccare. This is why Forde preferred referring to the “Adam story,” rather than “the Fall.” According to him, there was an event that has been wrongly termed “the Fall,” but it was just Adam sinning out of necessity. Forde is a neo-Flacian through and through — he believes that human nature is essentially sinful and that it always has been.

In the foregoing excerpt Forde is juxtaposing what is in his mind the TRUE story (the “biblical” Adam story — in which Adam is NOT an “exiled soul” who “fell” from a pristine state of nature/grace) with the FALSE story (the “false” view, the one held by the Church Fathers in both the East and West, by the Lutheran reformers, the formulators, and the scholastics: that Adam did indeed fall from a pristine state of nature/grace).

Forde sees the latter — the historic Christian view — as inherently perverse. He thinks that the “Adam story” was “seduced” by the “exiled soul myth” (a sort of pan-religious theme which perdures in every era) and that the prevailing doctrine of “the Fall” is a commonly believed falsehood. Basically, he thinks that Christian theology was hopelessly corrupted by pagan mythology, Neoplatonism, and — most of all — Aristotelianism. The suggestion that there was ever a state of inherent created righteousness Forde regards as part and parcel of the ubiqutious “theology of glory.” Any talk of substance ontology or essentialism is “speaking in the manner of Aristotle,” who, if you ask Forde, was a real dunce when it came to…everything. Even some LCMS Lutherans have adopted this view on account of some things that Luther said about some things that Aristotle said. But that’s just sloppy. And, again, we’re not just the church of Luther.

Now, Matthew…if you STILL think you are right, that’s fine. But at this point, this is what this game is starting to feel like:

 

Bob: Sven, you are still not representing him correctly. Did you notice something particular at the end of his statement? Something I asked you directly if you understood? Let me quote it for you: “And there we have a tightly woven theology of glory!”

So again I will ask you if you understand what a theology of glory is in Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation. If you know what it is then you would catch on to how Forde is clearly disagreeing with what he’s quoting. I’m still really shocked that you continue to ignore that part. My only guess is that you have no clue what he’s referring to.

Me: Yes, Bob, Forde is referring to the soteriological narrative of fall and restoration as a theology of glory. Next you’re going to tell me that Forde didn’t reject substitutionary atonement. I’ll wait.

I’m not going to answer your question about the Heidelberg Disputation. It’s not relevant to this discussion.

How about you provide your gloss of the text that you quoted from Forde’s book? I’ve done so three times. All you’ve done is insist that you’re right, say that I “argue like an atheist”, that I “don’t get it”, that you are self-evidently correct..blah, blah, blah. At this point, you look like a fool. Take your chips and and go home, or engage the topic discursively, as I have done. Because I can keep doing this all day — again. It’s good exercise, but eventually I’m going to get tired of it. So, your turn. Let’s see a good, dialectically-sound treatment of the text.

Bob: So Sven, let me get this straight and point a few things out:

1. You misrepresented and misattributed a theological stance to someone who it didn’t belong, and when the entirety was quoted in context you refused to retract your statement claiming correctness by adding pejoratives to the conversation.

2. You refuse to consider the evidence I have proposed in order to maintain ignorance, and then burden shift for me to double prove the information that I had provided evidence for.

3. Playing within your sphere of influence, I gave you information from peers within that sphere which you have refused to acknowledge.

4. Instead of answering a question I posed to you honestly, you dismissed it as irrelevant, implicitly showing that you don’t know the material you are claiming to have knowledge on.

At this point you need to admit to your dishonesty in this. First by admitting you’ve quote mined and misrepresented Forde through means other than the source material that I’ve provided. Second you need to admit that your knowledge on several issues is lacking both historically and theologically. Third you need to admit that pejoratives and cliques don’t make a persons information any more factual. And fourth you need to admit that you are dodging direct questions in order to avoid culpability for your dishonesty.

I find it HIGHLY suspect that you dismissed the Heidelberg Disputation as irrelevant, which shows that you don’t even know that the Forde book that you are misquoting and misrepresenting is directly inspired by and written to explain the Heidelberg Disputation. That is enough evidence to show that someone who has read the book should have a grasp of the Heidelberg Disputation after reading it. You’ve proven that you do not have a grasp by your inability to distinguish between a “Theology of Glory” and the glory of God, which is clearly outlined in the book itself. I have read it, twice in fact, that’s how I know. This is proof that your arguments are from ignorance, not a careful consideration of the material.

LCMS colored glasses don’t change factual information.

“There is no wisdom save in truth. Truth is everlasting, but our ideas about truth are changeable. Only a little of the first fruits of wisdom, only a few fragments of the boundless heights, breadths and depths of truth, have I been able to gather.” — Martin Luther

Me: Alright, well I’m sure glad we got that sorted! Again, explain where my reading of the Forde passage is off. Quote text and show me.

Bob: Sven, I’ve done that several times now (admin note: have any of you readers found where he did this? Please let me know). Do pay attention and stop detracting from your dishonesty and trying to make the issue to be mine.

Justin Doe: One thing you haven’t mentioned, Sven, is that you cited Dr. Kilcrease and Dr. Phillips saying that Forde and Paulson reject an historic Fall. So Bob’s argument isn’t just with you.

Bob: Thank you for that bit of information, Justin; it helps to track down where he quote-mined his information from. So he’s committing another fallacy of argument from authority. Thank you for helping shed more light on tracking down his source material.

Jane Doe: Here is this layperson’s gleaning…. and mind you, I have not read Forde’s On Being a Theologian of the Cross in a long time, but I did run through the Heidelberg Disputation last night and this morning (Not that that is enough to grasp all of that disputation).

I find Forde’s writing to be problematic. I think denying the third use is a denial of the Simul. If you cannot find joy in the law with your new man, you are stuck as just a sinner. No simul for you.

I do think if you want to accuse someone of something, it is helpful to point it out. Perhaps the person cannot see it, the body of Christ needs one another. We are to call one another back, right? Matthew 18 and all that? Take a breather and come back if necessary.

If quoting Kilcrease is an argument from authority, so is quoting Luther or anybody else.

There’s my two cents.

Me: Citing authorities is not the same as committing the fallacy of argument from authority.

Bob: He’s is taking what an authority said without examining the source material. He is saying that Forde is incorrect because someone else says so. That’s drastically different from examining the actual source material, which doesn’t come from them, and formulating your own argument which may or may not agree with their assessment.

In other words, he is stating that their opinion on the material he dishonestly claims knowledge of is correct without knowing the source material itself. That is the very definition of an argument from authority.

Me: No, Bob, I have shown why Forde is incorrect and I have quoted the statements of others which also demonstrate his error. That’s not a fallacy.

Seriously, point out my error. Don’t just keep saying “You’re in error! You’re in error!” That’s not an argument. Simply saying that Forde says “And there we have a tightly woven theology of glory!” does not prove…whatever point it is that you’re trying to make. I don’t even know what it is that you think Forde believes at this point. Perhaps this is a big misunderstanding. In your own words, what is Forde’s understanding of the Fall? I want to make sure that I’m understanding you correctly.

Bob: Sven, no you haven’t. You’ve attributed a theological stance to Forde which is not his own based on the opinion of someone else, who I would point out would also be false in that instance. I’ve provided the original source material for you to examine with the footnote of where the theological stance originates and a correct explanation of his thesis. You on the other hand continue to say I’m wrong in order to cover for your dishonesty in the matter. Also, as I’ve said, I’ve pointed out your errors several times now in the thread. continuing to ask me to point them out again is an attempt to detract from answering why you’ve been dishonest. You are using all the typical tactics of a very dishonest form of discussion.

Me: “He’s is taking what an authority said without examining the source material. He is saying that Forde is incorrect because someone else says so. That’s drastically different from examining the actual source material, which doesn’t come from them, and formulating your own argument which may or may not agree with their assessment.

“In other words, he is stating that their opinion on the material he dishonestly claims knowledge of is correct without knowing the source material itself. That is the very definition of an argument from authority.”

So, did anyone else see me doing this in the course of this thread, or is it just Bob, the paragon of truth and right, who was able to discern this?

You must not have read my comments, bud.

Bob: So what you are saying, Sven, is that you haven’t copied and pasted in your posts my citing of the original source material with is applicable footnote? If you answer yes then it shows that you are being dishonest by continuing to claim that I haven’t provided the material, in context and in full. If you say no I will get the source material I provided with a copy of your posts quoting the source material that I provided to show how you are dishonest.

Me: No, I have done that. And it wasn’t dishonest. And the footnote did not prove what you apparently truly do believe that it proved. It really seems to come down to your inability to extract meaning from a text, i.e., you’re not very good at…reading. The context proves my point, and it proves it even further. You haven’t shown me to be in error by explicating the text; you have merely cited it. Context is important, yes, but simply providing it is only half the battle in any argument.

Bob: So I guess at this point you need to admit your dishonesty in claiming that I haven’t provided you the information for your misrepresentation.

Me: What?. Like, what do you even think you…mean? What is at stake for you here, bud? You’re just making a fool out of yourself. This is just ludicrous.

Bob: Sven, again a reductio ad absurdum shows no integrity. Ad homs are also a problem with your line of argumentation as well.

Me: OK. Then….show….what….the….error…..consists…..of. Show. Don’t tell. Show.

We are all very impressed with your newfound enthusiastic misapplication of the informal fallacies. Did you just check out a new book from the library?

In any event, we’re all still waiting for you…..to…..show…..the…..errors….. of….which….you…..speak.

Bob: Sven, and again, this constant detractor [sic] of demanding I show you information that I have already provided several times is simply to keep the argument going so that you don’t have to admit your dishonesty. You’ve already stated that you have seen the material I presented, in proper and full context with the applicable footnote and refuse to acknowledge that you have misrepresented the author.

Another thing you need to do is admit you don’t know the source material you are claiming to have knowledge of as evidenced by your dismissal of the exact source material necessary for understanding the topic as irrelevant.

Me: I didn’t dismiss the source material; I dismissed your question about the source material. For the record. Because your question was a red herring. Look that up in your new library book.

Bob: Sven, no you haven’t studied the source material extensively. If you had you would be able to concur with my claim that the author makes a distinct difference between a “Theology of Glory” and the glory of God. Instead you refused to answer a direct question of your understanding of the original source material that the author was using as base material , i.e. the Heidelberg Disputation, as irrelevant. Anyone who has studied this wouldn’t have said such a thing and would understand the thesis that Forde is putting forth. You do not. So at this point I will now call you out on your lie.

Justin Doe: This is just stupid. Every argument we make is based on some level of authority, either ours because we know about a particular subject, or another expert in the field. So your “argument from authority” strawman is just dumb and circular. And again its another distraction from the real issues.

Father Bonk: To be clear, this is a Confessional Lutheran group, and thus it is assumed that if you are a Lutheran and in this group, you hold to the BoC, including a belief in the third use of the Law.

Bob: Am I to be clear, Father Bonk, that dissenting viewpoints, even if they are grounded, are unwelcome in here?

Father Bonk: If they were not allowed, you would not be in the group. You are allowed to disagree, so long as the conversation does not devolve into insult. Could you start a new thread to address your concerns with the third use, so that further discussion could happen there? This comment section has gotten into far too many issues at this point for a productive conversation.

 

Father Bonk locuta est. Causa finita est.

 

 

+SDG+

svenstclaire

6 Comments

  1. I know it’s a tiny detail out of a huge back-and-forth, but how do you think Sasse mis-reads the Confessions? It’s the first time I’ve ever heard that charge leveled against him, and I’m curious.

    • Hi Aidan. Thanks for reading and commenting. My words, in context:

      I wage battles with “confessional” types, i.e., those who cling to confessional as a label but read the actual Confessions through an obfuscatory and selective lens, such as Forde, or even Sasse, who, for all his merits, is still not a good heuristic guide for the Confessions. Such readings are ahistorical and anachronistic and they end up creating problems down the road.

      This was kind of a throwaway line based upon some disagreements I have with the Erlangen school generally (Sasse probably least of all, actually), but it remains true that Sasse’s specific, historically-conditioned theological concerns can sometimes obscure the full breadth and depth of the Confessions. And the same can be said of almost any great theologian. I will admit my own bias in thinking that one is least likely to experience this sort of hermeneutical parallax when one reads our Lutheran confessional theologians historically, starting with the first generation of theologians and moving on through the great seventeenth-century scholastics: Chemnitz (not 17 C., obviously) and then Gerhard, Hunnius, Calov, Hollaz, etc. Our collective overlooking of these theological giants is a great weakness of contemporary Lutheranism. It used to be that Heinrich Schmid’s compendium of the orthodox Lutheran fathers, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, was an essential text for an LCMS seminary education. No more, sadly — Pieper’s is virtually the only dogmatics text that LCMS seminarians will ever encounter; and while it is fantastic, it is not without its weaknesses. I highly recommend getting a copy of Schmid. My friend and mentor Rev. Heath R. Curtis has made it available for a fire-sale price.

  2. That would have been comical if it weren’t so bewilderingly painful.

    Check out this quotation!
    Okay. Yeah, so Forde quotes someone.
    Did you see the quotation?
    Yes. What is your point?
    I’ve already showed you the quotation.
    Okay, fine. My point is that Forde denies the Fall.
    How can you say that when Forde denies the quotation?
    Because Forde equates that quotation with the doctrine of the Fall.
    Did you not admit that you saw the quotation?!
    Look, here is a point-by-point explanation of how Forde uses that quotation.
    You are ignoring the quotation!
    Uh… Perhaps you could explain what you think Forde means?
    Have I not already supplied a footnoted and annotated quotation?
    Yes. What do you think it means?
    MY QUOTATION MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED

  3. I have not finished this post but I just want to say that the next time I hear that Luther never taught a third use of the Law, I am going to scream. Read his Antinomian Disuptations and Theses, and while Luther never says there are three uses, he clearly believes that the Law functions in the life of a believer to daily purge and battle sin in our flesh and be a guide.

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