Essentials of Evangelical Theology
Volume Two: Life, Ministry, & Hope
© 1979 Donald G. Bloesch
HarperCollins, New York, NY All Rights Reserved
1. Evangelicalism. 2. Theology, Doctrinal. 3. Bloesch, Donald G.
1928-2010 v. 2. Essentials of evangelical
LC Class: BR1640 .B54 vol. 2 BT75.2 ~~ Dewey: 230.8 B652 ~~ OCLC: 954755477 ~~ LCCN: 78003140 ~~ 315p.
Essentials of Evangelical Theology Volume 2 is presently held by 122 libraries including Indiana University (Bloomington) and the San Antonio Public Library
Table of Contents
From the Jacket of the Book
Preface ... xi
I. Introduction ... 1
Notes ... 5
II. The New Birth ... 6
The Meaning of Regeneration ... 6
The New Birth and Experience ... 10
Baptism by Water and the Spirit ... 11
Continual Conversion ... 15
Erroneous Interpretations ... 19
Notes ... 27
III. Scriptural Holiness ... 31
The Call to Holiness ... 31
Justification and Sanctification ... 41
IV. The Cruciality of Preaching ... 71
Preaching as a Means of Grace ... 71
Preaching the Whole Counsel of God ... 83
Reformed Worship ... 87
Biblical versus Cultural Preaching 92
Notes ... 98
V. The Priesthood of All Believers ... 104
Priesthood in the Bible ... 104
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit ... 107
Historical Development ... 110
The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments ... 118
Toward a Catholic Balance ... 123
Notes ... 128
VI. Two Kingdoms ... 131
The Biblical Testimony ... 131
Development in Catholic Thought ... 135
Reformation and Post-Reformation Perspectives ... 138
Modern Discussion ... 142
A Theological Reappraisal ... 147
Notes ... 151
VII. The Church's Spiritual Mission ... 155
The New Testament Perspective ... 156
Witness of the Church Tradition ... 158
Reinterpreting the Church Tradition ... 164
Evangelism and Social Concern ... 167
Notes ... 171
VIII. The Personal Return of Christ ... 174
Current Issues in Eschatology ... 174
The Second Advent ... 179
The Resurrection of the Dead ... 183
The Millennium ... 189
Notes ... 204
IX. Heaven and Hell ... 211
Promise and Warning ... 211
The Historical Controversy ... 214
Universalism and Particularism in Karl Barth ... 220
The Twofold Outcome ... 224
Notes ... 230
X. How Distinctive is Evangelicalism? ... 235
Confusion in Terminology ... 235
Supreme Authority of the Word of God ... 239
The Transcendent God ... 242
The Radical Pervasiveness of Sin ... 244
The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ ... 247
The Free Gift of Salvation ... 250
Inward Religion ... 257
Notes ... 260
XI. Toward the Recovery of Biblical Faith ... 265
The Outlook for Evangelicalism ... 265
The Need to Reappraise Biblical Authority ... 269
The Need to Rediscover Evangelical Distinctives ... 275
The Need to Recover Catholic Substance ... 278
Toward a Catholic Evangelicalism ... 283
Notes ... 290
Scripture Index (not included here) ... 299
Name Index (not included here) ... 304
Subject Index (not included here) ... 311
From the Jacket of the Book
This volume completes one of the finest and newest American Christian systematic theologies. Essentials of Evangelical Theology blends illuminating scholarship with balanced judgment, while remaining rooted in the classical tradition of reformation theology and informed by biblical spirituality. It focuses and clarifies the distinctive aspects of Evangelicalism as it lays the foundations for productive dialogue with others in the Christian tradition.
Donald G. Bloesch is Professor of Systematic Theology at Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. He is the author or editor of seventeen books, including the recently published Struggle of Prayer. Dr. Bloesch received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has done postdoctoral work at the Universities of Oxford, Tubingen, and Basel. He has served as President of the Midwest Division of the American Theological Society.
In praise of Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Volume 2:
"A major American systematic theology ... presents evangelical convictions in the light of a comprehensive awareness of historical and contemporary theology." Sojourners
"Extensive and comprehensive." Eternity
While the first volume of Essentials of Evangelical Theology concerned the themes of God, authority, and salvation, this second volume focuses on life, ministry, and hope. At the same time in the discussion of evangelical distinctives and strategy in the last two chapters, I shall recapitulate and amplify some points that have been made earlier.
It is my intention in these volumes to reconceive evangelicalism so that it can become an effective force for renewal in the church. Too often in the past evangelicalism has been divisive and has drained needed energy and resources from the established churches. It would nevertheless be unfair to blame all these schisms on evangelicalism, since a protest had to be registered against the drift into a latitudinarianism and modernism that sundered the church from its biblical and historical roots. Moreover, reformers and prophets of an evangelical stripe were not tolerated in many denominations, and the dissidents had to withdraw if they were to maintain their integrity. In this task of reinterpretation I wish, by all means, to avoid a nebulous evangelicalism where the lines between true biblical faith and liberalism are blurred; instead, I seek an evangelicalism that is historically informed and theologically profound.
In a time when Christianity is being translated into social and psychotherapeutic commitment, evangelicalism, with its emphasis on the fundamentals of biblical religion, can help the wider church to recover the vertical dimension of the faith. It can remind the church that any lasting social change is based on interior spiritual transformation and that a new society ultimately rests upon a new humanity.
This book is addressed not only to evangelicals but to all Christians who are seeking to think through their faith int he light of new advances in biblical and theological scholarship as well as in the face of new challenges from a secularized culture. Its intent is to break down the walls that divide Christians from one another on significant doctrinal issues so that the church can give a unified witness to a world that sorely needs to hear and believe the good news of reconciliation and redemption through Jesus Christ.
I make no claim that this is an exhaustive systematic theology, a
task that would entail several extensive volumes. My purpose is simply to spell out the core of the historic Christian faith from an evangelical and Reformed perspective. In the last two chapters I shall not only recapitulate previous themes but point directions for the church as it faces an uncertain future. Biblical authority and theological method will again receive attention as I seek to steer evangelicalism on a path that will insure its continuity with the historic church as well as confirm its fidelity to the Scriptures.
Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." John 6:28-29.
If we could have been saved by our works, it would not have been necessary for Christ to die. Ulrich Zwingli
It is a hallmark of the true evangelical religion to emphasize that sin and morality are inward rather than outward ... that a new birth is indispensable to a new life, and that therefore what pleases God is heart-religion and heart-morality. John R.W. Stott
Evangelical theology is at war with all views which graft salvation on to natural goodness or revelation on to natural knowledge, on the grounds that such views fail to grasp both the sinfulness of sin and the graciousness of grace. James I. Packer
To me the real distinction is not between high and low, but between
religion with a real supernaturalism and salvationism on the one hand, and
all watered-down and modernist versions on the other. C. S. Lewis
There is a pressing need today for evangelical unity as Christianity faces a world that is steadily becoming more secularized and therefore more hostile to traditional religious values. As we survey the current scene, however, we see a sorely fragmented evangelicalism. Carl Henry has sagaciously observed that we are no entering a new era of evangelical controversy, and this means that we can expect to see further division and polarization.
Evangelicalism, it should be remembered, is wider and deeper than nineteenth-century revivalism. It is even broader than the Reformation, though it was in that period that evangelical distinctives were rediscovered and proclaimed with power and authority. If evangelical fragmentation is to be overcome, we need to recover our historical roots not only in Pietism, Puritanism, and the Reformation but also in the biblical renewal movements prior to the Reformation. Evangelical unity can only be realized if we press for the unity of the whole church under the Word of God, and the this means Evangelical-Catholic unity. If we are to break free from provincialism and sectarianism, we need to rediscover the evangelical motifs in the church fathers, including Irenaeus, Augustine, and Ambrose, and also in the doctors of the medieval church, such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas.
The present-day controversy in evangelicalism revolves around four issues: biblical authority, eschatology, election and reprobation, and the gifts of the Spirit. All these issues will be addressed in this volume, but particular emphasis will be given to the conflicts concerning baptism and the new birth, the gifts and ministries of the church, the millennial hope, and universal salvation.
Epistemology, too, figures in this controversy, since one's approach to biblical truth is integrally related to one's theory of knowledge. Those who see biblical revelation as basically, if not exclusively, propositional are inclined to be rationalists in their epistemology. Those who understand this revelation as predominantly historical are more likely to embrace an empirical methodology. On the other hand, those who
view revelation as the living God in action disclosing himself and the truth of his Gospel through historical events as well as verbal concepts and imagery will stress the priority and supremacy of faith over reason.
The breakdown in biblical authority in the churches today creates both opportunities for evangelicalism and possibilities for new dissension. A critical method that a priori rules out supernatural intervention into human history has served to undermine confidence in the Bible as a document of revelation and must assuredly be rejected by evangelicals. At the same time we must not make the mistake of trying to turn the clock back to an earlier or precritical period in the history of the church, since we are living in a different age and must face the challenges that historical criticism presents to the church.
It is becoming customary in evangelical as well as ecumenical circles to speak of the culturally conditioned garment of faith, and I too occasionally use this language. Yet we must avoid the temptation to drive a wedge between the cultural expression of faith and the prophetic and apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, since we hear this witness only in its cultural form. There are some today, for example, who say that Paul was wrong in his conception of the man-woman relationship; but this kind of exegesis simply will not do, since what Paul says God also says, for Paul (as well as the other biblical authors) seemed to only partially grasped the import of the revelation given to him. The Holy Spirit made use of the patriarchal values and imagery of biblical times; but through his appointed witnesses, the prophets and apostles (including Paul), a patriarchal ideology was transcended, while the abiding truth in patriarchal ideology was transcended, while the abiding truth in patriarchalism, the difference between an above and below, a relationship in which Christ's authority is realized in the role of a servant (Ephesians 5:21-33).
We need to see that revelation is incarnational, that is, it enters into the relativity and ambiguity of history and thereby has a this-worldly as well as a transcendent locus. We also need to consider that inspirational is organic in that the Holy Spirit makes use of culturally conditioned language and concepts in order to direct people to a supramundane truth and destiny. The Bible is not Spirit-dictated but Spirit-effected and Spirit-filled.
Evangelicals must firmly resist the tendency in neo-orthodoxy to equate revelation with an existential encounter. Revelation entails
what God has definitively disclosed in the history of the past as well as what he wishes us to apprehend in the present. Barth's distinction between the event of revelation, which is always new, and the revealedness or inspiredness of the biblical record, which he disclaims, must be treated with a certain degree of reservation, since revelation in the biblical sense has a propositional and a historical pole as well as an experiential pole.
At the same time evangelicals should oppose the concept of verbal revelation, which denies the actual entrance of the Word of God into human history and rests the case for biblical authority on the errorlessness or faultlessness of the Bible's language or mode of expression. I agree with the orthodox theologian Gilbertus Voetius that it is necessary to distinguish between the material or content of Scripture and its external form or special mode of writing.1 The inerrancy of Scripture pertains to its teaching authority, not to the impeccability of its text or language.2
Just as Christ was truly human but without sin, so Scripture is truly human but without error in its matter. But just as Christ entered into our limitations, so the Word of God also entered into the cultural limitations and history of the people of Israel. The analogy of the incarnation must not, of course, be pressed too far when we are dealing with Scriptural authority, since Jesus Christ is himself God, whereas Holy Scripture is the creation and instrument of God.
Likewise, we must oppose the view of faith as an irrational leap in the dark (an idea sometimes entertained in existentialist theology) and the view that identifies it primarily with intellectual assent (as in an orthodoxy gone to seed). Faith is a commitment of the whole person which entails rational understanding. At the same time the object of faith is not directly accessible to human reason, and this means that reason must ruse above itself if it is to apprehend the mysteries of God (Calvin).
It can be shown that our position on faith and reason is inextricably tied to our view of biblical authority. If the object of our belief is the objective data recorded in Scripture, then the reason of unregenerated man is quite capable of coming to the truth of God on its own apart from any special illumination of the Spirit. On the other hand, if the focus of our belief is the living Christ and the abiding significance of his life, death, and resurrection, then reason must make way for faith as a special creation of God. The words and concepts in Scripture are the vehicles by which we apprehend the reality and goodness of the infinite God himself and by which we come to know his will and purpose for us.
The Bible might be likened to a well that consists in a supply of water (the inner content) and a pump (the outer form).3 We cannot see the inner content, but we can experience it when we go to the well to satisfy our thirst.
There is a need today for new statements that will bridge the barriers between the various parties in evangelical Christianity as well as the barriers between Evangelicalism and Catholicism. It is not only the doctrine of Scripture that has become a point of dispute but such themes as the new birth, the mission of the church, the immortality of the soul, the millennial hope, and the reality of hell. My intention is to open new ground in the discussion of these and related issues.
Certainly it is also imperative that we take seriously the call to the Christian life so that the boundaries between the church and the world will again become visible. Though our justification is to be attributed to the vicarious, imputed righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith, our sanctification is inseparable from a life of love and obedience in the midst of the world's anguish. Only a life that is consonant with our doctrine will make the faith credible in the eyes of its cultured despisers. The social impotence of modern evangelicalism is to be traced partly to its overemphasis on polemics and apologetics and its neglect of ethics, particularly in the social or political dimension.
Eschatology could give a biblical rationale for a revolutionary style of life, but too often it is used to reinforce a reactionary social stance. The millennium has become a pretext for social apathy in many circles, whereas rightly conceived it could become a catalyst for social change. The Christian hope has been misunderstood to mean escape from the world (the Marxist opiate of the masses) whereas in its biblical context it should inspire the people of God to battle with the world and triumph over it. The church will regain its social relevance when it recovers an eschatology that gives meaning and direction to the ethical task of the Christian in today's world. Hope and vocation are integrally related, for only those who have hope can overcome and persevere.
At the same time, evangelicals must avoid the misunderstanding common in liberal social gospel circles that the dominion of Christ is extended by social engineering. Progress toward social justice must not be confused with the coming kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is present only where people enter into that higher righteousness, the fellowship of sacrificial love. A degree of social justice can be realized among all peoples because of God's common grace, but the higher righteousness of the kingdom is made possible only by the gift of redemption accomplished by Christ at Calvary and the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit. With the higher righteousness as our norm and goal, we can and should press for an ever greater measure of justice and freedom within our present world order. Yet penultimate hopes of peace, justice, and political emancipation must not be confused with the ultimate hope of the new heaven and new earth for which all creation is now groaning in travail (Romans 8:22).
1. See Henrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. and rev. Ernst Bizer, trans. G.T. Thomson (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950), p. 15.
2. Despite my difficulties with Gerhard Maier, who completely equates the letter of Scripture and revelation, I find myself in agreement with him when he says that infallibility in Scripture "in the sense of authorization and fulfillment by God" must not be confused with "anthropological inerrancy." Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method, trans. Edwin Leverenz and Rudolph Norden (St. Louis: Concordia, 1977), p. 72.
3. In this illustration the pump can also be said to be the external sign, and the supply of water the thing signified. The Bible, like the sacrament, consists in both an external sign and the matter or spiritual reality to which the sign points.
II. The New Birth
Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit. John 3:7-8
If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
If there is one essential issue in our Christendom, it is surely that of the new birth .... it is the well out of which all good has to come. Philip Spener
There is a cost involved before one can come to peace with God. The new birth and its process does not happen without much pain. Philip William Otterbein
In baptism Christianity gives him a name, and he is de nomine a Christian; but in the moment of decision he becomes a Christian and gives his name to Christ. Soren Kierkegaard
The Meaning of Regeneration
The Scriptures speak not only of justification but also of regeneration. Regeneration is the creation of a new heart within man which entails new goals, new aspirations, new power for service. We read in Ezekiel: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh: (Ezek. 36:26; cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Psalm 51:10-12). Paul declares that when we were dead in our sins God made us alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). In his view the man in Christ "is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). In the Fourth Gospel those who become children of God are "born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). This same theme is also embodied in 1 Peter: "You have been born anew,
not of mortal parentage but of immortal, through the living and enduring word of God" (1:23).
While justification signifies the imputation of the righteousness of God, regeneration means to be engrafted into this righteousness. Whereas justification consists in the pardon for sin, regeneration refers to the taking away of sins, the interior cleansing of sin (cf. 1 John 1:9). Salvation includes more than the declaration of pardon: it also involves being made righteous. In regeneration justification is made concrete. Regeneration can in one sense be regarded as the subjective pole of justification. It occurs simultaneously with justification, though the latter has logical priority. Yet while justification is complete, regeneration is incomplete. It must be continued through life, though its commencement signifies a radical and decisive break with the old pattern of life. [This webmaster differs on his definition of regeneration. I believe it is included in the new life that is implanted into the new creation, the new believer. Regeneration is a present reality, a present condition for the Christian, part and parcel of the gift of Eternal Life. I think he should be referring to sanctification in the sense of something which grows, develops in the Christian]
Regeneration is also integrally related to conversion. Indeed, conversion is the subjective response to God's decisive intervention in man's life. Conversion signifies man's turning to the way of the cross, but he could not turn unless he had already been inwardly liberated by divine grace. The initiative of God in the act of conversion is poignantly expressed by Isaiah: "I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you" (44:22). IN Ezekiel 37 the people of Israel are depicted as a valley of dry bones that cannot be brought to life until God causes his breath to enter them. Before man can obey in faith, he must have been breathed upon or baptized by the Holy Spirit. Even his repentance and obedience testify to the work of the Spirit within him, the grace that is drawing him irresistibly to Jesus Christ. The supernatural basis of conversion is made abundantly clear by Jonathan Edwards: "Conversion is a great and glorious work of God's power, at once changing the heart and infusing life into the dead soul; though that grace that is then implanted does more gradually display itself in some than in others."1
In the circles of radical mysticism conversion is understood as a turning from the manifold to the essential, from the world of the temporal to the Eternal. But in biblical faith and piety conversion means turning from the way of sin to the way of righteousness. It issues in service to the world, not in withdrawal from the world.
Conversion entails not only a turning to Christ (epistrepho) but also repentance (metanoeo). Repentance consists in the renunciation of sin and the commitment to lead a new and better life. It means not a certain discontent with oneself but brokenness of heart. It involves not merely feeling sorry for oneself but forsaking sin. It implies not
simply coming to Jesus but casting oneself on the mercy of Christ.
Regeneration and conversion signify the coming to faith. Indeed, no one can be born again unless he believes, and if he believes, he is indisputably born again. As the apostle declares: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ..." (1 John 5:1; cf. John 1:12-13). Melanchthon and many who followed him separated the act of faith from regeneration by the Spirit. Against this view we contend that the new birth is simply another way of describing the awakening to faith. The new birth is not fulfilled apart from the decision of faith. This means that faith itself is instilled by the Holy Spirit, that faith itself is a manifestation of the work of the Spirit within. Calvin wisely observed: "Faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification."2
It is perhaps allowable to distinguish between the Spirit as agent and as gift (as we find in some contemporary Lutheran theologians).3 In this perspective faith becomes the means by which we receive the gift of the Spirit, though the Spirit is the agent by which faith is created. There is some biblical basis for this distinction (cf. Acts 2:38; 5:32; 11:17; Gal. 3:2-5),4 but if pressed too far it can give rise to a serious misunderstanding. Faith is not simply the receptacle of the Spirit but a living union with Christ created by the Spirit (as Luther was fond of saying). The bestowal of the Spirit is equivalent to being united with Christ in faith. We do not first have faith and then the Spirit makes his abode within our hearts; the very entry of the Spirit into our lives gives rise to faith. Faith is the response created by the Spirit as well as a means by which the Spirit becomes resident in our lives. We were made alive while we were dead through our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and this means that the grace of regeneration is definitely prior to faith,5 though this grace does not become a permanent indwelling reality in our lives except through our faith.
Regeneration does not consist in the alteration of the old nature but in the impartation of a new nature. In the traditional Catholic view grace builds upon nature, but in Evangelical Protestantism grace transforms nature. The new birth signifies not rehabilitation or reformation but a new being. As Luther phrased it: "The putting on of Christ according to the Gospel, does not consist in imitation, but in a new birth and a new creation."6 In the liberal view enunciated by Schleiermacher and Bushnell grace is an awakening and stimulation of our natural powers. In the Catholic perspective grace is an infusion of supernatural power. In the Reformation position grace is the invasion of the Holy Spirit. The key word in both neo-Catholicism and neo-Protestantism is
development. In Evangelical Christianity the key word is crisis. The old man must die. He must be crucified and buried. He cannot evolve into the new.
The Evangelical understanding of regeneration is certainly present in the history of the Catholic church. Tertullian insisted: "A man becomes a Christian, he is not born one." Augustine and Pascal both testified to dramatic experiences of conversion by which their lives were completely altered. In their view conversion is upheaval, reversal, and reorientation.
For Luther and Calvin the new birth was certainly a fundamental doctrine, but it was given peculiar emphasis by the Anabaptists and Pietists. While the Anabaptists conceived of the new birth as a great obligation and task, a decisive commitment to the will and work of God, the Pietists (Spener, Francke, Zinzendorf) understood it more in terms of the peaceful possession and enjoyment of salvation. The Anabaptists stressed bearing the cross in lowly discipleship; the Pietists emphasized believing in the cross of Christ and upholding this cross in our preaching and life.
There was no general consensus among the Pietists on how the new birth comes to man. Spener spoke of a preparation of the heart prior to regeneration, though he allowed that the new birth sometimes occurs suddenly. Francke stressed the struggle for repentance (Busskampf) as necessarily preceding the new birth. For Zinzendorf the new birth is an instantaneous gift. They are all agree, however, that the new birth signifies a radical alteration of man's being and not simply a reformation of his character. Oswald Chambers, a representative of later Pietism, put it this way: "The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man's respectable goodness."7
In the contemporary period Karl Barth has stressed the incongruity between grace and nature and the radicality of the new birth. While maintaining that man's ontological change has already occurred in the life and death of Jesus Christ, he nevertheless affirms that a second ontological change happens in the event of conversion. "When a man becomes a Christian," he declares, "his natural origin in the procreative will of his human father is absolutely superseded and transcended."8 Indeed, "the man involved in the act of conversion is no longer the old man. He is not even a corrected and revised edition of this man. He is a new man."9
On the British scene P.T. Forsyth has emphasized the radical nature of conversion and the new birth. While recognizing that not all
Christians will undergo a crisis experience like that of St. Paul, he nevertheless perceived that such an experience is the paradigm of Christian conversion.10 Every Christian should be translated from the way of sin to the way of righteousness, though not every one will be conscious of the precise moment that this occurs. "The Kingdom of God," Forsyth contends, "can only come by the Cross, by crisis, by a breach with the natural life, though not a disruption of it."11 For him regeneration signifies not simply the fulfillment of man's yearnings and strivings but their transformation. The state of grace and of faith is qualitatively different from the state of nature.
The New Birth and Experience
The new birth is both an event and an experience, but it is primarily and essentially the former and only secondarily the latter. What is regenerative is the even of the new birth, even though it cannot happen apart from an upwelling of joy and an outpouring of love.
There can be no equivocation concerning the need for an experience of the love of Jesus Christ and the joy and power of his resurrection. Jesus held out this hope to his disciples: "You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy" (John 16:20). The disciples were not imbued with spiritual power and joy until after the resurrection of Christ, when he sent forth his Holy Spirit. St. Paul fully expected that the Christian would experience "joy in the faith" (Philippians 1:25). To belong to the kingdom of God is to experience "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). Calvin made his position quite clear: "The whole man must be born again if he wishes to enter into the kingdom of God, for in both mind and heart we are entirely alienated from the righteousness of God."12 In this perspective the whole man includes his feelings as well as his mind and will. "It is not enough to know Christ as crucified and raised up from the dead, unless you experience, also, the fruit of this .... Christ therefore is rightly known when we feel how powerful his death and resurrection are, and how efficacious they are in us."13 Luther agreed: "No one can correctly understand God or His Word unless he has received such understanding immediately from the Holy Spirit. But no one can receive it from the Holy Spirit without experiencing, proving and feeling it."14
The emphasis on a personal experience of Christ's salvation was even more pronounced in the circles of Pietism, Puritanism, and Evangelicalism. Neither Spener nor Zinzendorf could point to the exact time
when they were saved (here they differed from Francke and Wesley), but they both stressed the need to experience the joy and peace of Christian salvation, the fruits of the resurrection of Christ. For Zinzendorf faith was basically trust in God as revealed in Christ, but it must be authenticated in personal religious experience.
While one can expect to feel the love and joy of Christ, this feeling should not itself be identified with the new birth. It is a sign and fruit of the new birth, but it is not the event itself. We can and must experience the new birth, but the new birth itself is not the same as the experience. It is not realized apart from experience, but in itself it transcends experience. We here concur with Abraham Kuyper: "The union of believers with the Mediator, of all matters of faith the most tender, is invisible, imperceptible to the senses, and unfathomable; it escapes all inward vision; it refuses to be dissected or to be made objective by any representation ...."15 Paul declared that our new life in Christ is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Yet if the root and sap are hidden, the fruit is visible not to the one who himself is born again but to others who see the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.
Spell checked to here 7/31/18
The new birth
The new birth is not accompanied by rational guarantees, but there are signs which are persuasive to the eyes of faith. Foremost among these are heartfelt repentance for sins, a sense of the love of God and the assurance of salvation which enables one to give praise and pray to God (Romans 5:5; 8:14). The new birth is also attested by the exercise of a new power over temptation and a new love for one's neighbor (1 John 3:9-14; 4:7; 5:4). It is the fruits of the Spirit that prove that we have the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; 1 John 3:7), and the crowning fruit is love.
One cannot be converted apart from conviction of sin and joy in the Spirit, and yet the essence of conversion is not feeling but the forsaking of sin and practice of the new life. We should heed again these words of Dwight L. Moody: "Repentance is deeper than feeling. It is action. It is turning right about. And God commands all men everywhere to repent."16 The new birth is not only a spiritual reality but a moral action that gives rise to deeds of loving service.
Baptism by Water and the Spirit
The baptism of the Spirit, or the new birth, is integrally related to water baptism, and yet the two are not identical. That there is a very close connection between the two is attested by our Lord: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter
the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 5-6). In Peter's Pentecost sermon the implication is taht the cleansing work of the Spirit is accomplished through repentance and baptism, or at least in conjunction with them (Acts 2:38). Paul proclaimed: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27; cf. Romans 6:3-4; Eph. 5:26). This emphasis is also reflected in Titus 3:5: "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit." Biblical scholars generally agree that the washing of regeneration refers to the rite of baptism. Similarly, in Hebrews we are enjoined to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (10:22).
In the New Testament the gift of the Spirit does not always occur at the very same time as the rite of baptism. The disciples of Jesus had been baptized, but they did not receive the Spirit into their hearts until Pentecost. On the other hand, Paul's regeneration took place at the time of his baptism (Acts 22:16). The Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19 had both received baptism by water but had not yet received the Spirit. Apollos in Acts 18:24-25 was in the Spirit and yet had only received the baptism of John.
The overall witness of the New Testament seems to be that baptism by itself is not indispensable for salvation, but baptism joined with repentance and faith becomes the means by which people receive the gift of regeneration. The integral relation of baptism and faith is attested in Acts 2:38 and Colossians 2:12. To be effectual for salvation baptistm must be accompanied by faith or else give rise to faith (cf. Heb. 10:22; Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38). Though they had been baptized, the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19 had not oyet received the Spirit because they still did not possess effectual faith (pistis). They did not have the "full assurance of faith" which distinguishes the truly converted. The Spirit came to them as they were awakened to repentance and faith through the preaching of the Word. The Word of God alone is the indispensable means of salvation, while baptism is a spiritual aid.
In our view baptism is the sign and seal of the new birth. There is only one baptism, and the gift of the Spirit and immersion or sprinkling with water are its two sides. Water baptism is the outward sign; the Spirit is the inward reality. With John Nevin we affirm the reality of baptismal grace but not baptismal regeneration.17 The Holy Spirit is
indeed working upon a person at baptism, even upon an infant, but he does not make his abode within that person until the decision of faith. Our new birth can be said to be initiated at baptism (in the case of infants), but it is not fulfilled until conversion. In the case of adults who are already believers baptism is a confirmation of their conversion. We can say that baptism is not a condition of salvation but a preparation for it in some cases and a certification of it in others.
In the New Testament baptism was a public testimony of faith. It is also a means or instrument by which faith is strengthened and even fulfilled. The inward seal is the Spirit himself (Eph. 1:13; 4:30), which is attested by the rite of baptism, the outward seal.
This brings us to the enigma of infant baptism. Since infants cannot have faith, why then should they be baptized? The New Testament answer is that the promises given to the parents extend to the children (Acts 2:39), and our Lord expressly wished to receive the little children into his presence (Luke 18:16). Moreover, there are grounds for arguing that the practice of infant baptism goes back to the very first century; it is said that whole households were baptized (Acts 16:33; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16), though this in itself does not prove the case for infant baptism.18
It cannot be denied that infant baptism became a rite of cheap grace very early in the history of the Christian church, and the Reformation did little to correct this abuse. The Pietist movement did not discard the practice of infant baptism but sought to link it with the faith that it was hoped, would follow. Philip Spener, who adhered to baptismal regeneration, nevertheless contended that, because many fall away from their regeneration, it is necessary that such persons be regenerated anew through personal repentance and faith. August Hermann Francke insisted that the promise of salvation is not connected with baptism alone but with baptism and faith. The Pietists advocated the rite of confirmation as a supplement to baptism to give people an opportunity to confess their faith before the congregation.
We affirm the validity of both infant and believer's baptism but insist that, in both cases, one must not presume that regeneration has indeed taken place. The new birth is an inward reality mperceptible to the senses, but it is not realized apart from personal faith in the living Christ. With Luther we can say that in thet sacrament of baptism the treasure of Christ is given to us, but we still need to appropriate or receive it into our hearts. The sacrament may have objective validity, but its benefit extends only to those who repent and believe. In the case of infant baptism one is baptized toward faith rather than into faith. As John Calvin put it, "children are baptized for future repentance and faith."19
Again we contend with Luther that baptism is not completed until that which it symbolizes takes place on the last day, namely, perfect regeneration or glorification.
Contrary to the traditional Catholic view we hold that there is no automatic development from baptism into conversion. Sometimes Catholic scholars use the illustration of the oak tree and acorn to clarify their understanding of the relation between baptism and conversion. Conversion is indeed a ripening process but only after the new birth has taken place. Infants cannot be said to be regenerated, for they lack conscious faith in Jesus Christ. At the same time, if they have been baptized, we can say that they are under the claim of divine election and are within the sphere of the kingdom of God.
Again in opposition to what has come to be the recognized Catholic position, we contend that baptism is efficacious not on the basis of the work of the priest or pastor nor on the basis of the rite itself (ex opere operato) but on the basis of its union with the promises of God in Scripture. It is not baptism by itslef that results in salvation but baptism joined to the Word of God and to the faith of the recipient.
Our position by no means contradicts the whole of the Catholic tradition, since many of the fathers and doctors of the church stressed the necessity for faith and repentance if baptismal grace is to be effectual. St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures warned that "if you persist in any evil purpose, the water will receive you, but not the Spirit."20 Symeon held that a baptism without genuine conversion is a baptism only in water. In the view of Catherine of Siena some people have "the form of holy baptism, but none of the light, for they have been deprived of the light by a cloud of sin."21 There are signs that current Catholic theology is seeking to give greater recognition to the decisive role of faith and repentnace in the life of the believer without underrating sacramental objectivity.22
Baptism does not need to be repeated, since a person is born again only once. To be sure, the spiritual reality may still need to take place even though one is baptized, but the sign has permanent validity, since it has the blessing of both God and the church. When Catholic religious made their solemn vows this was regarded in Luther's day as a second baptism. Luther vehemently opposed such an understanding, since it detracted from the efficacy and sufficiency of othe sacrament of baptism. This practice among Catholic religious was never given dogmatic formulation, but it pointed to the need for a personal profession of faith that would give substance to the rite of infant baptism.
Baptism is a sign of God's efficatious grace poured out for us in Jesus Christ and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is a sign that God elects us before we decide for him, that God's grace is the basis of our decision of faith. This is particularly evident in infant baptism, but believer's baptism too symbolizes this reality. Yet baptism is more than a sign: it is a means by which the Holy Spirit comes to us and works upon and within us. Baptism plays a prominent role in our conversion and is not just a symbol of our conversion. This is because the God of the Bible works in and through human instruments to accomplish his purposes among people.
While the new birth happens only once, conversion is a broader term which applies to the whole of the Christian life. Conversion is both an event and a process in that what has been begun must be carried forward and completed. The new birth itself is sometimes depicted in the New Testament as something begun but also continuing insofar as the renovation of human nature must continue (note that the perfect tense is used in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1:23). Reformed theology has understandably identified the new birth with the first intrusion of God's grace into human life, but we must bear in mind that in the total biblical perspective regeneration indicates something much more than the initial change within man.
The old man was indeed crucified and buried in the decision of faith (Romans 6), but he reappears like a corpse coming back to life. He was drowned at baptism, but he ever again bobs up to the surfact (Luther). Sin is expelled from our lives in the moment of conversion, but it returns whenever we look to ourselves instead of to Christ. This means that ouro regeneration is both complete and incomplete. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we are cleansed from all sin (1 John 1:7), but an inclination to sin lingers on, and this is why sin can take root within us once again.
It was a man of God who declared: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10-11). This must also be the prayer of the born-again Christian who, though united with Christ, nevertheless falls away from the ground of his being again and again and must therefore be restored to the state of grace.
It is true that Paul announced with confidence: "We know that our
old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin ... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:6,11) Yet he went on to say: "Let not sin ... reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness" (Romans 6:12-13). Here he recognized that though the Christian is dead to sin in principle and should be in fact, he nevertheless remains vulnerable to temptation and can and does fall into sin ever again. Paul's perception that conversion must continue in the Christian life is even more evident in his admonition to the Christians at Ephesus: "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24; cf. Colossians 3:5).
The Reformers were adamant that conversion and regeneration must continue throughout life. In Calvin's view, "It is not enough to have embraced only once the grace of God, unless during the whole course of your life you follow His call."23 Luther considered the remission of sins a divine work continuing until death:
Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners.24
In later evangelical revivalism the event of the new birth was perceived in terms of a climactic transformation, and the subsequent life of the Christian as simply basking in the glory of a past conversion. It was held by some that selfishness and sloth are all consumed and annihilated in the fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit so that a new man emerges without any stain of past sin.
Such naivete, however, was not characteristic of Jonathan Edwards, who remained faithful to the Reformation in his keen awareness of the struggle and travail in the Christian life. Like the Reformers he acknowledged that we in ourselves are "utterly without any strength or power to help ourselves."25 Yet when grace comes upon us, we are impelled to turn to a new way of life. But it is not enough to turn to Christ:
we must remain in Christ, and this entails a lifelong struggle against sin, death, and the devil. Edwards spoke of a "continued conversion and renovation of nature" in the life of the Christian, but this view was eclipsed in the perfectionism that later came to dominate revivalism.
Kierkegaard too perceived the struggle involved in a life of conversion. Becoming a Christian is not an immediate transformation but a lifelong decision. He in no way denied the reality of the transforming grace that comes into one's life at the moment of conversion, but he recognized that, because evil in the human heart is not wholly extirpated, one must be engaged in a constant battle to subdue it. This gives the initial decision of faith more significance rather than less, since it means embarking on a pilgrimage in which one is arrayed agaisnt the forces of evil both within and without. It means breakign with the values of the world and facing perpetual opposition from the world. "Becoming a Christian," Kierkegaard declared, "is then the most fearful decision of a man's life, a struggle through to attain faith against despair and offense ..."26 But then having made the decision, one must continue in trust and obedience. The gate is narrow and the way is hard by which one gets to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14; cf. Luke 14:27-30). "Conversion is a slow process," he observed. "One has to go back along the same road where one previously went forward."27
It is possible to recognized several stages in regeneration. First there is the pre-Christian stage in which one is encountered by the grace of God and thereby awakened to seek for salvation. We are not here affirming a universal prevenient grace: it is redemptive grace itslef that arouses man and quickens him, grace that comes to him only through the hearing of the Word. The disciples before Pentecost were in this stage. They had been converted to the way of the cross but not yet to the Gospel of the cross. They had embraced Christ as the Messiah of Israel but not yet as the Savior of the world. They were seeking for salvation, but they were not baptized by the Holy Spirit into the salvation of Christ. The Holy Spirit was with them but not yet in them (John 14:17). Their natural yearnings for God were appealed to and awakened by the Spirit as they heard the preaching of Christ.28 It might be said that they had the faith of a servant, but not yet the faith of a son (Hebrews 3:5-6). John Wesley, before his Aldersgate experience, described himself as "almost a Christian," though he had led a life of exemplary piety. As he confessed, he had repented in a legal sense but not in an evangelical sense. He was pursued by grace but not yet convicted by grace.
The second stage of regeneration is the new birth in the narrow sense. Here the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and makes his dwelling place within us. Now we are convicted of sin and awakened to faith. Now we repent of our sins and acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior. Now e have the power of godliness and not just the form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5). Now we taste and live in that forgiveness which is already ours by virtue of our election in Christ. Now we seek the glory of God and not simply the help of God.
On the road to Damascus Paul was confronted by the blinding light of grace, but the new birth did not take place until he received the Spirit at his baptism by Ananias (Acts 9:17-18). Then he was not only blessed with true faith but empowered to confess his faith before the world.
Regeneration must continue into sanctification, where we take up the cross and follow Christ in costly discipleship. It will entail new decisions, new dedications which confirm and renew our baptismal decision. Having been baptized by the Spirit, we must go on to be filled with the Spirit, and having been filled, we must seek to be more deeply filled. Regeneration culminates in glorification, where we are completely transfigured in the image of Jesus Christ. But glorification does not occur until the resurrection at death, and final glorificaiton does not occur until the final resurrection on the last day.
Both Lutheran and Reformed orthodoxy as well as Pietism and Puritanism affirmed a preparatory stage of conversion before the new birth itself, a period of gestation before the actual delivery. Lutheran orthodoxy was accustomed to speak of two acts of grace. The first act seeks to divert the unconverted man from his state of sin and instill within him a horror and detestation of his past sin. As Heinrich Schmid says:
The second act of divine grace is this, that it drives man, alarmed on account of his sins, to take refuge in the merit of Christ, which covers his sins and is accounted as his merit; so that conversion, which commences in contrition, is finished in faith. The former is produced by the preaching of the Law, the latter by the preaching of the Gospel.29
While this point of view has much to commend it, our interpretation is somewhat different. First, we contend that the man who is confronted by divine grace is no longer an unregenerate person but a person who has already tasted the grace of regeneration. He is already under grace, though grace has not yet fully possessed him. This position is in agreement with some of the representatives of Lutheran orthodoxy,
but not with Hollazius, for example, who restricts the term conversion to the excitation of contrition and the term regeneration to the bestowal of faith. Moreover, we maintain that the conviction of sin is the result not of the Law alone but of the Law joined with the Gospel. Indeed, one cannot fully or truly repent of sin until one is awakened to the depth of Christ's love revealed in his suffering and death at Calvary. Both the Law and Gospel are a means of the redemptive grace of God by which he both convicts people of sin and awakens them to faith in Jesus Christ. This same redemptive grace creates within one a desire for salvation so that one is prompted to seek for the mercy of Christ. This very seeking is conditional on the divine calling (cf. Psalm 27:8), since the natural man in and of himself cannot seek for God (Romans 3:11; Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3). The person who seeks for salvation is on the way to conversion, but he is not truly converted until his seeking culminates in repentance and faith. And faith itself is not fulfilled apart from obedience to the commandment of Christ (1 Peter 1:5-7).
It is possible to speak of a type of faith that is already operative in the early stages of the sinner's salvation, but as Wesley says, it is "a low species of faith, i.e., a supernatural sense of an offended God."30 It is not yet faith in Christ and his Gospel, which alone is saving faith. The Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19, it can be argued, had this preliminary or external faith but not yet "the full assurance of faith" which characterizes the truly converted, those whose hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22) The same can be said for the disciples of Jesus, as has been indicated. True faith is the wellspring of true repentance, but there is no true faith apart from the gift of the indwelling Spirit.
Erroneous interpretations of the new birth are surprisingly abundant, especially today. On the right there are the dangers of sacramentalism and predestinarianism and on the left, religious enthusiasm and perfectionism.
In the circles of enthusiasm the new birth is frequently reduced to a stereotyped experience, which is considered the hallmark if not the essence of the new birth. In the Halle brand of Pietism this experience was conceived as a struggle toward repentance (Busskampf), in which people were inwardly stricken with sin. Upwelling joy and assurance were regarded as further distinctive signs of the new birth.
Many insist upon a datable, palpable experience of conversion, and it is a fact that a study of the lives of the great saints of the church nearly always reveals some special personal salvific experience. This is true of Paul, Anthony, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Francke, Charles Finney, Moody, Wesley, John of the Cross, and Loyola. Yet not all these experiences necessarily coincided with the moment of translation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. In some cases experiences after an initial conversion proved to have greater depth and intensity. Moreover, it can be shown that, in many cases, there was a preparation for the experience as well as a subsequent development of it. Conversion is both sudden and gradual, though the experience itself may often be cataclysmic.
It is also well to recognize that the great saints often warned against placing trust in one's feelings. Feelings can be deceptive, and one must persevere in faith even when there is an absence of joy or rapture in one's life. Hannah Whital Smith advises:
Pay no regard to your feelings ... in this matter of oneness with Christ, but see to it that you have the really vital fruits of a oneness in character and walk and mind. Your emotions may be very delightful, or they may be very depressing. In neither case are they any real indications of your spiritual state.31
Then there are those who interpret the experience of the new birth as so transforming that the Christian is no longer in the state of nature but wholly in the state of grace. They appeal to passages like 1 John 3:9: "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God" (cf. 1 John 5:18). While it is true that no one can sin in unioni with Christ, the irrefutable fact it that time and again we fall away from this unioin and thereby into sin. We have the power not to sin, but we inevitably, though not necessarily, succumb to the temptation to sin. John himself gives this word of warning: "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John: 1:10).
Against the enthusiasm of his day Luther contended that the decisive mark of being a Christian is the consciousness of sin. "No saint," he delcared, "regards and confesses himself to be righteous, but he always asks and waits to be justified."32 This orientation is also reflected in the writings of Pascal, Kierkegaard, Barth, and many others. It is evident, too, in the Baptist missionary Oswald Chambers: "No man knows what sin is until he is born again ... The evidence that I am delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me."33
In the Holiness movement emerging int he middle nineteenth century, the doctrine of the second blessing was advanced: it was asserted that a second experience after conversion brings entire sanctification or perfection. The rudiments of this idea are to be found in John Wesley, who clearly distinguished between justification on the one hand, and on the other, perfection in love, which he associated with a second crisis experience. Among those representative of this movement were Charles Finney, Joseph H. Smith, Hannah Whitall Smith, Andrew Murray, Daniel Warner, and Samuel Brengle. Like most spiritual movements this one contains a solid core of truth, namely, that there are blessings of the Spirit beyong conversion and that a relative perfection is attainable in this life. Yet many of the people involved went further, speaking of sinless perfection whereby one was belileved to be free from the very taint of sin though not from temptation. It was said that the sanctified Christian is still stained by faults and weaknesses in character, but he is free from actual sin. If sin is conceived as a conscious transgression of a known law of God, as Wesley defined it, there there is some substance to the Holiness allegation. But if sin is though of as any inclination to eveil within man, in the manner of the Reformation, then, of course, no one, not even a sanctified Christian, can be free from sin. Wesley himself never claimed to have achieved entire or total sanctification and maintained that even the perfected Christian is guilty of sins of omission and therefore must continue to pray the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses."
The experience of the second blessing was sometimes called the filling of the Holy Spirit and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the door was thereby opened to separating the new birth from the gift of the Spirit. This signified a clear divergence from Wesley, but the idea became ever more prevalent that the new birth is only a condition or preparation for the higher experience in the Christian life, perfection in love or the baptism of the Spirit.
In Pentecostalism, which grew out of the Holiness movement, the second experience was said to be accompanied by the sign of speaking in tongues. Some Pentecostals distinguished three aspects of the Spirit's activity: his regenerating, sanctifying, and energizing work. Beyond Christian perfection is the experience of empowering for public witness, and it is this which is considered the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Most Pentecostals, however, follow the position of the Assemblies of God in equating the second crisis experience with the baptism in the Spirit. Some conceive this experience as a baptism of love and associate it with Christian perfection (as in the Holiness churches);
others see it as one of empowering for service and regard sanctification as progressive (as in the Assemblies of God) rather than instantaneous.
None of these positions is without some biblical support, and it must be remembered that we, too, speak of stages in regeneration. Yet we insist that the baptism of the Spirit must not be distinguished from the new birth. There is one baptism -- into the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:13), and this baptism signifies the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our lives. To be "baptized with the Holy Spirit" is tantamount to "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:16-18). Yet Spirit-baptism has two sides: regeneration and empowering. The initiation into the Christian community may precede the consecration to his service, though ideally the two go together. Moreover, there is the promise of deeper empowering and further purification, which the New Testament calls being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Again, there are anointings and visitations of the Spirit that equip the saints for special ministries. Peter, who had been baptized and filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, received a further visitation of the Spirit (a second blessing?), which enabled him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). In Ephesians 1:16-19. Paul prays that God will grant those who already believe a "Spirit of wisdom and revelation" (cf. Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 1:6). This can take the form of a definite experience, though it is always an ongoing process as well.34
At the same time, we must not presume that faith needs to be superseded by love; rather, faith needs to be deepened. Faith itself is an empowering; indeed, it is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). In the decision of faith we were "washed," "sanctified," and "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). Karl Adam has rightly observed: "If it be genuine divine faith, the faith of a Christian is in very truth a 'showing of the spirit and of the power' of the Holy Ghost."35 We must not strive for a higher salvation beyond faith but seek the renewal of our faith. Indeed, we must return to the wellspring of our faith, our crucifixion and burial with Christ at Calvary, the outward sign of which is Holy Baptism (cf. Romans 6:3-6; Col. 2:12).
It is a promising ecumenical sign that some Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals today are reexamining their position and are not giving the new birth more prominence. The view held by some (Derek Prince, Harold Horton) that the Holy Spirit is only with the believer in conversion but comes to abide within him in Spirit-baptism is increasingly coming under criticism. Arnold Bittlinger sees the Pentecostal experience as a manifestation of the presence of the Spirit who already dwells
within the born-again Christian. "We Christians," he declares, "do not look for a special act of receiving the Spirit in 'sealing' or "Spirit-baptism,' but we know that the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian and also in each Christian can, and wants to, become manifest."36
The tension between Reformation theology and Holilness-Pentecostal theology is similar to that which exists between the former and Christian mysticism. Whereas the Reformed faith stresses the theology of the cross (theologia crucis), the mystics and enthusiasts put the accent on the theology of glory (theologia gloriae). While one tradition concentrates on bearing the cross in lowly discipleship and waiting for the manifestation of glory on the last day, the other contends that we can enter into this glory already, that heaven can be experienced now.37 There is truth in both sides, since the person of faith can have a foretaste of the glory that is to be revealed (1 Peter 5:1; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; 3:18). At the same time the experience of glory is only partial, and the life of faith entails waiting and hoping, not a continual basking in this glory. Because the Christian is still a sinner, he must not claim too much and must always look forward to the second coming of Christ (Romans 8:22-23). The Holy Spirit indeed now abides within us, but he is not within our control or possession. He directs us to the eschatological day of redemptioni, which still lies ahead of us.
Karl Barth, who seeks to do justice to both dimensions of salvation -- past reconciliation and future redemption, gives this timely warning: "To desire to receive redemption prematurely, to possess it, to feel it, to give it form and actuality in our own experience, leads not merely to unprofitable illusions but to disobedience and rebellion."38 Barth does not deny that redemption and eternal life are already assured to the Christian: "Grace has already in itself redemption, the life eternal. ... God is already, now and here, all in all to the sinner. But all in faith .... For redemption in its true, strict sense we wait."39
While the enthusiasts and mystics are prone to give undue weight to extraordinary experiences of conversion, neo-Protestantism and neo-Catholicism stress the continuity between nature and grace. In this perspective conversion is simply the unfolding of what is already present within the human soul. A universal prevenient grace is affirmed by which one can prepare himself to receive the gift of conversion. In liberal theology it is commonly asserted that one grows into grace or faith instead of making a decisive leap of faith.
According to Horace Bushnell "the child is to grow up a Christian, and never know himself as being otherwise."40 Though he criticized the
humanistic view that growth in Christian character is a "vegetable process," a mere "outward development," Bushnell averred that in families that are united in covenant with Christ, the child is already "regenerate when born."41 He will grow up into Christianity naturally just as he grows up into citizenship. The child should be conscious of himself as already a Christian, though he will need to struggle agaisnt evil as he grows into a mature faith.42
In evangelical theology one is neither born a Christian nor grows into Christianity; instead he must be challenged to make a life and death decision. He needs to make a decisive break with the old pattern of living. He must be translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). One is not a Christian by nature, but he must be reborn as a Christian through the grace of God.43
The divine summonos that comes to us is not simply to accept the fact that we have already been accepted into the family of God (as in some neo-Lutheran and Barthian theology). Rather, we are called to lay hold of the outstretched hand of Jesus Christ, to respond to his gracious invitation, and apart from our response we are not included in God's family. Faith is not simply an acknowledgement of God's saving work in Christe: it is the indispensable means by which this saving work is realized in our lives.
In secular-liberation theology, which is now in vogue, we find a blending of liberal and radical motifs. Conversion is seen as involving a decisive break not with man's inherent drive for power but with the conditions that hold people in economic and political bondage. The new birth signifies an intiation into the revolutionary struggle for a new world. Paulo Freire puts it this way: "The real Easter is not commemorative rhetoric. It is praxis; it is historical involvement ... I can only experience rebirth at the side of the oppressed by being born again, with them, in the process of liberation."44 What is disturbing about this point of view is that it locates the misery of man in oppressive conditions in society rather than in the concupiscence within the heart of man and sees a revollution by violence as a way to salvation.
Finally, we need once more to consider the heresy of sacramentalism, where grace is believed to be given automatically even to those who cannot yet make a response in faith. Sacramentalism is to be found not only in Roman Catholicism but also in Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglo-Catholicism and high-church Lutheranism. It is also a conspicuous feature of Mormonism, which teaches that baptism and the laying on of hands are absolutely necessary for justification. The baptism of the dead is practiced in that communion, since even the departed cannot
partake of glory unless their sins are cleansed through vicarious baptism.
In the medieval period the sacrament of confirmation received prominent attention. In some circles it was regarded as the fulfillment of baptism, whereby the child was given an opportunity to make a public profession of faith. Baptism was seen as the sacrament of the new birth and confirmation as the sacrament of growth and spiritual maturity. While the remission of sins is conveyed through baptism, the empowering of the Spirit is given through confirmation. In our time Dom Gregory Dix, Anglo-Catholic Benedictine, conceives of confirmation as the seal of the Spirit and baptism as the sign of the remission of sins.45 Baptism in water is only a preliminary to the baptism of the Spirit given in confirmation. What is disconcedrting in this theological tradition is that Calvary is separated from Pentecost, thereby pointing to an affinity with Pentecostalism. We endorse the rite of confirmation not as a sacrament whereby grace is necessarily imparted but as a commissioning service in which one confirms the vows made on his behalf at his baptism.46 Baptism is the sacrament of both Calvary and Pentecost, though the reality of both these events will be experienced somewhat later in the case of those who are baptized as infants.
Our position is not very far from that of Evangelical Pietism in its earlier phase, where the reality of baptismal grace was affirmed without in any way minimizing the need for a personal profession of faith. Kierkegaard echoed the views of many sensitive souls within the state churches: "If people absolutely insist on infant baptism, then they ought all the more vigorously see to it that rebirth becomes a decisive determinant in becoming a Christian."47 What Kierkegaard called "the Moment of decision" of course does not happen at confirmation but is presupposed by confirmation. This solitary decision of faith can only be made when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the sinner, and this is not within man's control. The sacrament of baptism proclaims the miracle of conversion, but it does not guarantee it. As our Lord declared: "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).
Evangelical revivalism protested against both the sacramentalist view, in which one is automatically baptized into the body of Christe, and the Reformed covenant view, in which one is regenerate by virtue of having been born in the covenant community. Yet, especially in its later phases, Evangelicalism also succumbed to the temptation of formalism in its invitational or altar-call, where decisions of faith were
called for at the end of a revival service. In early nineteenth-century revivalism on the American frontier this decision involved considerable agaonizing and sometimes days of deliberation. The place of decision, the mourner's bench, was regarded as an altar of repentance, and it frequently turned out to be so. When revivalism became more domesticated, the mourner's bench was replaced by a counseling room or simply by the act of going forward and bowing for a moment at the altar. The new birth was reduced to a packaged formula, and what David du Plessis calls "the sovereign unpredictability of the Holy Spirit" was disregarded. Some contemporary evangelists, including Billy Graham, have recognized the dangers of confusing decisions at the altar with the new birth itself. Graham now prefers to speak of public decisions as inquiries rather than conversions.
It is not within man's power, nor even within the power of the church, to bring about the new birth. The church can only proclaim the Word and hope and pray that the Spirit of God, who alone can penetrate the hearts of sinners, will act in his own time and way. Baptism by water is the sacramental sign of the new birth, but baptism itself does not effect the new birth. Like the Word of God itself baptism can be an instrument of the Spirit's redemptive action, but it is not a precondition for this action. The new birth will be accompanied by conviction of sin and assurance of salvation, but these are not absolute guarantees that the new birth has actually occurred, since feelings are not always trustworthy. The new birth may be followed by mystical phenomena, including speaking in tongues, but these, too, cannot be considered rational or even experiential proofs. Our certainty is based not onourfeelings or experienceds but on the promises of God in Scripture that whoever calls on the name of the Christ will be saved (Acts 2:21; 16:31; Mark 16:16), and whoever repents and believes will indeed receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Yet repentance and the obedience of faith are not the presuppositions of the new birth but the evidence and consequence of it.
The new birth signifies the concrete realization of divine predistination in the lives of the sdaints. This does not mean that we should simply sit back and do nothing. We can earnestly hope and pray for the gift of the Spirit. We can go to the church where the Word is proclaimed, for we have been told that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Our obedience before faith remains a dead work of the law unless it is fulfilled in faith (Bonhoeffer). It is is fulfilled in faith, then this is a sign that the Holy Spirit has already been working upon us, that we have already been made beneficiaries of God's special solicitude. God's efficacious
grace does not render us powerless but instead empowers us for faith, service, and discipleship under the cross. The new birth means to enter into the full dispensation of Christian freedom, yet freedom, true freedom, needs to be constantly exercised if it is to serve the cause of the kingdom.
1. C.C. Goen, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), p. 177.
2. John Calvin, "Reply to Sadoleto," in The Protestant Reformation, ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand (New York: Walker & Co., 1968), p. 163.
3. We here have in mind such respected scholars as Gerhard Krodel and Tormod Engelsviken. Similarly, Edmund Schlink makes the distinction between the Spirit creating faith and the gift of the Spirit in baptism (The Doctrine of Baptism, trans. Herbert J.A. Bouman (St. Louis: Concordia, 1969), pp. 71, 77). Also see K.F. Noesgen, Geschichte der Lehre vom Heligen Geiste (Gutersloh: Druck und Verlag von C. Bertelsmann, 1899). Noesgen contends that Luther distinguishes between the Spirit as sender or mediator and the gift of the Spirit to our hearts (pp. 137-138).
4. It should be recognized that in Acts Luke generally sees the gift of the Spirit in terms of charismatic manifestations which accompany or follow faith. Even where the reference is to salvation, the charismatic dimension is very much apparent (as in Acts 10:44; 8:14-24; 19:1-7).
5. We can affirm with Hollazius: "Regeneration is the action of the Holy Spirit, efficacious and sufficient to produce faith." In Heinrich Schmid, ed., The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), p. 464.
6. Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, ed. Philip Watson (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1953), p. 340.
7. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1967), p. 342.
8. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 4, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969), p. 9.
9. Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 2, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), p. 563.
10. "Oour conversion may be sudden or slow, but its type and idea is given in the swift, sharp, decisive and permanent cases of it represented by St. Paul's." P.T. Forsyth, This Life and the Next (London: Independent Press, 1918), p. 86.
12. Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, 12, 2 ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Ross Mackenzie. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), p. 265.
13. John Calvin, Commentaries ont he Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the
Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1851), p. 98.
14. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 21, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956), p. 299.
15. Abraham Kuyper, The Word of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henri De Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 327.
16. Cited in J.F. Findlay, Jr., Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist, 1837-1899 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1973), p. 240.
17. See James Hastings Nichols, Romanticism in American Theology (Chicago: Universitsy of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 245.
18. For the debate between Jeremias and Aland on whether infant baptism goes back to the apostolic church see Joachim Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Centuries (London: SCM Press, 1960); Jeremias, Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland, trans. Dorothea M. Barton (Naperville, Ill.: A.R. Allenson, 1963); and kurt Aland, Did the Early Church Baptize Infants? trans. G.R. Beasley-Murray (London: SCM Press, 1963). Aland argues that the practice of infant baptism emerged around A.D. 200.
19. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion trans, Henry Beveridge Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957) IV, 16, 20, p. 543.
20. Procatechesis 4. Cited in Simon Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit? (New York: Paulist Press, 1973), p. 52.
21. Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit? p. 52.
22. See Paul C. Empie and William W. Baum, eds., Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue, II (New York: National Lutheran Council, 1966); Hans Kung, The Church, trans. Ray ockenden and Rosaleen Ockenden (N.Y.: Sheed & Ward, 1967), pp. 203-211; Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit?, pp. 50-58.
23. Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, p. 252.
24. Luther's Works, vol. 34, p. 164. Cf.: "As often as a person comes into faith anew, so often Christ is born in him." Luther, Martin Luthers Werke (Weimarer Ausgabe, 1883 ff.) (Henceforth known as W.A.) 10, 1, 1, p. 387.
25. Sermon on Romans 5:6. Cited in Carl W. Bogue, Jonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace (Cherry Hill, N.J.: Mack Publishing Co., 1975), p. 219.
26. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, trans. David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 333.
27. Soren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard 1834-1854, ed. and trans. Alexander Dru (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), p. 28.
28. We can say that the Holy Spirit in this stage assists the will without transforming the will. He augments what is already in nature but does not yet impart a new nature.
This may seem strikingly similar to Jonathan Edwards' position, since he, too, posits a seeking for God prior to the new birth. He, too, makes a place for preparatory grace before conversion. Yet in contradistinction to Edwards we maintain that the person who seeks for God is to be considered not spiritually lost but assuredly on the way to regeneration, even though the Holy Spirit does not yet dwell within him as the abiding principle of the new life. For Edwards our seeking is a recognition that we are now spiritually condemned but that
we may be saved if we persist in our seeking. In our view our seeking is a sign that salvation is assured to us, indeed already extended to us. Edwards maintains that our seeking is a natural ability that is simply stimulated by the Spirit. We contend that our seeking for salvation is a potentiality aroused in nature by the special, miraculous work of the Spirit upon nature.
Edwards differentiates between the seeking made possible by common grace and the genuine seeking for Christ that is a product of regeneration. We too acknowledge that the preliminary seeking for the help of God is not yet the seeking of faith, since it is invariably mixed with unworthy motivation, including a desire for our own security and welfare rather than God's glory. At the same time, such seeking is not to be regarded as obnoxious in the eyes of God (as Edwards insinuates), since it is caused by the preliminary work of the Holy Spirit.
For a stimulating discussion of the two kinds of seeking in Edwards see Bogue, Bonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace, pp. 279-298.
29. Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, p. 460.
30. Albert Outler, ed., John Wesley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 137.
31. Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1952), p. 222.
32. Wilhelm Pauck, ed. and trans., Luther: Lectures on Romans (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), p. 113.
33. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest p. 361.
34. For an illulminating discussion of the work of the Spirit both in and after baptism see Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit?
35. Karl Adam, Christ Our Brother, trans. Dom Justin McCann (New York: Macmillan, 1931), p. 165.
36. Cited in J. Rodman Williams, The Pentecostal Reality (Plainfield, N.J.: Logos, 1973), p. 64.
37. A theology of glory is patently reflected in this statement of the nineteenth-century Carmelite mystic, Mary of Jesus: "Spiritual joy is the radiance of love, it is the flower of charity, it is the delight of him who loves and of him who is loved .... Joy gives wings to the soul, raising it above the earth, its trials and its sufferings, to soar to God alone." In her A Carmelite of the Sacred Heart, trans. M.E. Arendrug (New York: Benziger, 1923), pp. 126, 127.
38. Karl Barth, Theology and Church, trans. Louise Pettibone Smith (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 348.
40. Horace Bushnell, Christian Nurture, reprinted. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), p. 4.
41. Ibid., p. 197.
42. This covenantal view is anticipated in Calvin, who regarded children within the covenant as "presumably regenerated." Yet Calvin also made a definite place for personal conversion in the plan of salvation.
43. Bultmann reflects the biblical view when he declares: "For rebirth means ... something more than an improvement in man; it means that man receives a new origin, and this is manifestly something which he cannot give
himself." In Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, trans. G. R. Beasley-Murray, eds., R.W.N. Hoare and J.K. Riches (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), p. 137.
44. Paulo Freire, "Education, Liberation and the Church." In A Reader in Political Theology, ed. Alistair Kee (Philadelphia: WEstminster Press, 1974), [pp. 100-106], pp. 101-102
45. Dom Gregory Dix, The Theology of Confirmation in Relation to Baptism, 3rd ed. (Plymouth, England: Bowering Press, 1953).
46. See Donald G. Bloesch, The Reform of the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 87-95.
47. Howard Hong and Edna H. Hong, eds. and trans., Soren Kiergegaard's Journals and Papers, vol. 1 (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1967), p. 219.
III. Spiritual Holiness
For dominion belongs
In a time of religious
Strive ... for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
1 Thessalonians 4:7
Because they have been called to holiness, the entire life of all Christians must be an exercise in piety.
Gospel holiness differs greatly from the holiness of man in innocency. Man had the Holy Ghost then as the Spirit of God but now he must have Him as the Spirit of the Son of God, the Spirit of a Redeemer.
Repentance is the porch of religion, Faith is the door of religion, Holiness is religion itself.
We need the work of the Holy Spirit as well as the work of Christ; we need renewal of the heart as well as the atoning blood; we need to be sanctified as well as justified.
Bishop J.C. Ryle
Holiness is the architectural plan on which God builds up His living temple. God has set apart His people from before the foundation of the world to be His chosen and peculiar inheritance.
Charles H. Spurgeon
The Call To Holiness
The call to holiness resounds throughout the Scriptures, and in every church and theology rooted in the Scriptures. According to the Bible only God is holy in the full sense of this word. His holiness is his power, majesty, righteousness, and love. Such holiness has the character of depth and mystery and elicits reverence, awe, and fascination. While God's holiness is realized in its fullness on the plane of humanity only in Jesus Christ, all believers participate to some degree in it.
Indeed, God declares his children righteous and holy through faith (Genesis 15:6). To be righteous means to stand in a right relationship with God; to be holy connotes separateness as well as ethical purity. We are made righteous in order to pursue holiness (Col. 1:21-22). We receive travails and crosses from the hand of God so that we might share in his holiness (Heb. 12:10).
The Scriptures do not teach self-sanctification, but they do depict man as active in realizing the fruits of his sanctification in Christ. The righteousness of faith is based on the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, but the righteousness of daily living is conditional upon our cooperation with the Holy Spirit.1 The work of Christ is substitutionary, but the work of the Holy Spirit is not. He engrafts us into the body of Christ so that we might strive for the holiness which Christ exemplifies (Heb. 12:14). It is not enough to believe in the light; we must also walk in the light (1 John 1:6-7; Eph. 5:8). We are not co-redeemers in procuring the light of salvation, but we are co-workers in manifesting this light. Christian practice is the proof and consequence of authentic discipleship (John 15:8). Though the grace of God is sufficient, it must be given maximum effect by the earnest endeavors of believers. A living faith will give rise to godliness and brotherly love (1 Peter 1:5-7).
Yet the Scriptures also teach us that the basis of our acceptability before God is not our own holiness but the righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ. The gift of righteousness (Romans 3:21-22; 5:17), which is imputed, must not be confounded with the gift of sancifying love (Romans 5:5; 6:22; Heb. 6: 4-5), which is imparted. Moreover, it is not our own works in and of themselves that deserve a reward after faith. Our works count for nothing unless they are united with the regenerating and purifying work of the Holy Spirit within us. God equips us with all we need for doing his will, but it is he, working in us, who makes our work pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:21).
The biblical meaning of piety is fear of the Lord. It is deemed one of the seven gifts of the Spirit in traditional Roman Catholic theology (Isaiah 11:2). Piety is focusing attention upon God and his self-revelation in Jesus Christ, not upon our own spiriutal status or experience. Moses was able to endure because he saw "him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). Piety is seeking to know Christ and the power of his resurrection in the hope of attaining the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).
Piety or godliness is a gift from God, but it is also a goal that we should strive to realize. The motivation and power come from the Holy Spirit, but it is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit in bringing this blessing to fruition. "Train yourself in godliness," the apostle advises,
"for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. ... For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God ..." (1 Timothy 4:7-10).
In the patristic period the pursuit of holiness was held in high esteem, but biblical motifs were often subverted by too great an openness to Graeco-Roman philosophy. Christ came to be depicted as a teacher and law-giver, and the Christian faith was regarded in many circles as a new code of ethics. The emphasis of the apologists was on the imitation of Christ as an example and on obedience to Christ as teacher. Christianity was distinguished from pagan religions by its superior standard of moral conduct. For Clement of Alexandria Jesus Christ was a tutor whose aim was to improve the souls of h is charges and to train them for a virtuous life. In this theology it is "by learning that people become noble and good." Harnack observed: "It is not Judaeo-Christianity that lies behind the ... doctrines of the Apologists, but Greek philosophy ... the Alexandrine-Jewish apologetics," and "the maxims of Jesus."2
This is not to discount those among the church fathers who placed the accent on the atoning sacrifice of Christ and salvation by grace (e.g., Athanasius, Irenaeus). Yet even with them the emphasis was not simply on the descent of God to man but on the ascent of man to God. This idea in itself has a biblical basis (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3-4), but attention came to be focused on the holy life as a means to salvation. Moreover, through the influence of Gnosticism and Platonism it came to be believed that perfect, active holines is attained by the renunciation of all earthly blessings, even of life itself. In the dualistic asceticism that eventually prevailed one sought to gain release from the body in order to return to the World Soul, or the ground of all being. After the age of the martyrs, anchorites and monks were seen as the new models of holiness. The Christian life was viewed as a preparation for death (Irenaeus). This world was depicted as a vale of tears which had to be endured through patience and resignation. The Platonic Eros came to overshadow the New Testament Agape (particularly in Dionysius). The goal in life was reunion with the Eternal, deification, the perfection and realization of the self in union with God. This was a far cry from the biblical understanding of the Christian life as one of outgoing service to one's neighbor, oblivious of any gain for the self.
In the medieval period a dual standard of moralilty came to prevail. A distinction was drawn between the active and the contemplative life; the former, oriented about corporeal works of mercy, was believed to
be inferior to the latter, where attention was devoted exclusively to the love of God and the beatific vision. The religious life, which connoted separation from the world, was considered more worthy before God than the secular life, life in the world. Whereas the religious were under the counsels of perfection (poverty, celibacy, obedience) ordinary Christians were only under the commandments. Botho ways, of course, lead to haven, but the counsels give a practical assurance of eternal life. Holiness was seen as a higher happiness, and love (Caritas) was regarded as self-perfecting, under the influence of the Platonic Eros (see Nygren). While salvation was still thought to be anchored and grounded in the grace of God, the growing consensus was that it could at the same time be earned through works that proceed from faith. Little by little holinessd came to be understood as a task rather than a gift. Although both these notions have roots in the Bible, the task of holy living is never regarded as the condition or prerequisite for salvation and justification (as in the later medieval period).
The Reformers of the sixteenth century sharply protested against the works-righteousness that had come to dominate the piety of the cloister. To counteract the view that costly discipleship is intended only for the religious elite, Luther and Calvin sounded the universal call to discipleship. Luther opposed not the pursuit of holiness but the idea that one's own efforts toward holiness merit eternal salvation. He also firmly rejected the notion that holiness is for those who embark on an ostensibly relilgious life and not for all Christians. He sought to extend rather than restrict the call to holiness: "I hop that by this time almost everybody knows that whoever prides himself on being a Christian must also take pride in being holy and righteous. Since Christendom is holy, a Christian must also be righteous and holy, or he is not a Christian."3
While the popular piety of his time understood holiness in quantitative terms, as a matter of greater or lesser degree, Luther viewed the Christian as sinful and righteous at the same time (simul peccator ac iustus). The separation is not between those who are more holy and those who are less holy but between those who trust in Christ for their salvation and those whose confidence lies in their own works and experiences. The Christian is always a sinner because he is never freed from the contagion of sin, though he can withstand and subdue this through repentance and faith. At the same time the Christian is always righteous because he is covered by the righteousness of Christ through faith. Justification is an act whereby God declares the sinner righteous through faith in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Luther did not deny the regenerating work of the Spirit but insisted that this interior work of purifcation is a life-long process, completed only at death. The righteousness which justifies us is not this inherent righteousness, which is incomplete, but the alien righeousness of Christ, which is perfect in the eyes of God. Luther expressed the paradox of the Christian's life this way: "He is perfectly whole in hope, while he is in fact a sinner, but he has already begun to be actually righteous, and he always seeks to become more so, always knowing himself to be unrighteous."4 The Christian is righteous not in fact but in hope. He cannot boast of his own righteousness, since it is always accompanied by the inclination to sin. He is victorious over sin only when he ceases to rely on his own strength and trusts only in the might and power of Christ. "In this trial and struggle," Luther wreote, "the righteous man always resembles more a loser than a victor, for the Lord lets him be tested and assailed to his utmost limits as gold is tested in a furnace."5
While the medieval theologians were concerned with an active righteousness, in which man is an active aollaborator with the grace of God, Luther's emphasis was on passive righteousness. It is not produced by us but provided for us. It is God-given, not man-made. This is why it is alien to our perception and to our being, though its effects take root within us through faith and hope.
Luther repudiated not good works but works-righteousness. If he emphasized the continuing sinfulness of the Christian, he also sought to hold out the note of vitory over sin in the life of the Christian. "Christ did not so die for sinners that we might continue to live in sin.... Rather He came to redeem men from sin."6 Thus "a Christian struggles with sin continually, and yet in his struggle he does not surrender but obtains the victory."7 The Christian life should be characterized by works of love, but these good works are the sign and fruit of our salvation, not its basis. They show to the world that we are justified, but they do not earn divine justification.
In his later years, because of the controversy in which he was engaged, Luther placed the accent more and more upon extrinsic or forensic justification and sometimes lost sight of its mystical dimension. While he never separated justification and the life of regeneration, he often gave the impression that trust in the holiness of Christ is far more important than the pursuit of holiness in daily living.8 Though in the biblical perspective this is true, it must not be supposed that the pursuit of holiness is of little importance. Luther sometimes suggested this, but some of his followers went further and actually denigrated the life of holiness.
It remained for Calvin to give due recognition to the pursuit of holiness. Whereas for Luther the dominant motif was the justification of the ungodly, for Calvin the pervading concern was the Christian life. Nonetheless, he too saw forensic justification as the foundation of the holy life, but the purpose and goal of justification is perfection in holiness. Our calling, he declared, "demands purity of life and nothing less; we have been freed from sin to this end, that we may obey righteousness."9 While Luther frowned upon the cultivation of interior piety, Calvin believed that our entire lives must be an exercise in piety, which he defined as "that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces."10 In addition to upholding Christ as the Savior from sin, Calvin also saw him as a model or example for righteous living.11 Indeed, "only those can be called disciples of Christ who truly imitate him and are prepared to follow in His footsteps."12 To follow Christ in discipleship entails self-denial and the willing bearing of the cross. To spurn the call to discipleship and holiness is to render the cross of Christ ineffectual: "Paul not only exhorts us to exhibit an example of Christ's death but declares that there inheres in it an efficacy which ought to be manifest in all Christians, unless they intend to render his death useless and unfruitful."13
At the same time, Calvin agreed with Luther that the presence of sin can never be entirely eradicated in the Christian while he is still in mortal flesh. The work of regeneration is effected not in one eventful experience but throughout the life of the Christian. "And indeed, this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances God wipes out in his elect the corruptions of the flesh ... "14
Even more than Calvin, the Anabaptists stressed the need for holy living, not simply as a fruit and sign of salvation but as a condition for continuing salvation.15 They accepted justification by grace through faith, but this is not the whole of salvation. We must also go on to sanctification, which entails cross-bearing, mortification of the flesh, and separation from the world. They sought to combine the medieval stress on the holy life with the FReformation emphasis on faith and grace. According to Menno Simons we are not only accounted righteous by faith but "the righteous must live his faith."
In the polemics that followed the Reformation right doctrine came to be viewed as more important than right living, and the call to holiness, which was present in the original Reformation, receded more and more into the background. It remained for the movements of Pietism and Puritanism to recover this dimension of the Christian faith
for the mainline churches within Protestantism. The Christian life was seen not simply as a by-product of salvation (as in later Protestant orthodoxy) but as the arena of salvation, the field in which salvation is recovered and renewed. Jonathan Edwards expressed it this way: "Those who fight as those that beat the air, never win the crown of victory ... the kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by violence."16 The notion of the heart-prepared camed to dominate in Puritanism, where the Christian was summoned to cooperate with preparatory grace so that he might be ready to receive the work of justification.17 Yet for many of the Puritans our seeking for salvation is already a sign that we have tasted of the grace of justification, that we are already within the sphere of the kingdom.
In Pietism and Puritanism the holy life was regarded as the inevitable consequence of interior renewal. The Holy Spirit does not simply bring knowledge of what Christ has done but implements and actualizes the work of Christ in the personal history of his people. The revelation in the Bible is not completed in a theological or conceptual system (as in Protestant scholastic orthodoxy) but in the life history of the believer. As Philip Spener phrased it: "It is by no means enough to have knowledge of the Christian faith, for Christianity consists rather of practice."18 Francke preached that an outwardly honorable walk of life is insufficient: the entire inner man must be renewed in holiness. Good works are not simply a testimony of our salvation but its goal and crown. "Though we are not saved by good works, as procuring causes," declared Walter Marshall, "yet we are saved to good works, as fruits and effects of saving grace."19
Whereas the Reformers focused their attention primarily on the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, the Pietists were concerned with personal salvation and the demonstration of this salvation in daily living. This is not to deny that they, too, were devoted to the glory of God, but one's own salvation as well as the conversion of souls to Jesus Christ are precisely what gives glory to God. Spener sought to preserve a balance between the goals in life in this way: "Next to God's glory my great object is that God shall save my soul and those whom he has entrusted to me."20
An otherworldliness characterized Pietism; this was not, however, the world-denying spirituality of a certain kind of Catholic mysticism but an evangelical spirituality that sought to bring the heavenly vision to bear on practical activities in this world. Asceticism came to be seen not as a means to salvation (as in popular medieval piety) but as a method of service by which the Gospel is carried into the world in both
words and deeds. The Puritans encouraged people to distrust the world and to look for true life in spiritual religion. Yet, armored in the righteousness of God, they could then sally forth against the world and bring it into submission to Jesus Christ. Included in the Puritan dream were holy commonwealths in which the Law of God would be brought to bear upon the political and economic life of nations.
Much more than the Reformers the Pietists emphasized the separated life.21 They saw themselves as a leaven in a hostile and fallen world. The way the world would be changed was through the creation of a new humanity by the grace of the Gospel. The radical Pietists, unlike the Puritans, sought to build not holy commonwealths but eschatlogical communities, anticipatory signs of the coming kingdom of God. Both Puritanism and Pietism signify a reaction against a purely external religion. The worship in the Anglican churches in England, as in the stsate churches of Protestant Europe, had become formalistic. Prayers were recited rather than spoken from the heart. Symbols and ceremonies gradually preempted the preaching of the Word. Crredalism came to be the badge of orthodoxy. Jonathan Edwards protested that outward ethics and mere profession of the creed save no one. Against a barren orthodoxy he stressed the necessity for a living experience of the Word of God. Spener believed that people would not come to a sufficient knowledge of Scripture by what they heard in church. This must be sustained by piety and the continuing study of the Bible in the home.
There was in Pietism, and also in PUritanism, a stress on the optimism of grace over the pessimism of nature (Gordon Rupp). This note finds poignant express in John Preston: "With every godly man, in every regenerate heart there is a Spring of Grace which works out anything that fouls it."22 The redeeming work fo the Holy Spirit was given virtually as much weight as the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. Christ in us (Christus in nobis) came to be seen as a necessary complement of Christ for us (Christus pro nobis). The focus was no longer on perseverance in faith under the cross but on victory over sin through power from on high. While Luther emphasized the continuing struggle against temptation and unbelief, the Pietists, though allowing for an initial period of struggle (Busskampf), stressed the joys of life and the assurance of God's favor in service to the world.
This same emphasis on the holy life can be detected in the later Evangelicalism of John Wesley and George Whitefield. With the Reformers Wesley maintained that the righteousness of Christ -- both his
active and passive righteousness -- is the meritorious cause of our justification. Yet he insisted that though this alien righteousness entitles us to heaven, personal holiness is necessary to qualify us for heaven. "None shall live with God," he declared, "but he that now lives to God; none shall enjoy the glory of God in heaven but he that bears the image of God on earth."23 In Wesley's view personal holiness signifies the culmination and fruition of faith.
There is no doubt that the spiriutal movements of purification subsequent to the Reformation (Pietism, Puritanism, Evangelicalism) brought new life and vigor to the churches of the Reformation. In one sense, they signaled the fulfillment of the Reformation, since a reform in life is just as necessary as a reform in doctrine. At the same time, the legalism of taboos reappeared in these movements, especially in their later phases. The good news of God's free grace was frequently overshadowed by an overriding concern with one's own salvation or spiritual status.
The bane of legalism and moralism was particularly apparent in radical Pietism, which stressed the evangelical counsels, that is, nonresistance, not going to law courts, the absolute prohibition of divorce, and literally gaiving up the goods of life. Celibacy, too, came to be a requirement among some of the radical Pietists: here can be mentioned such religious communities as Ephrata, Bishop Hill, and Harmony. Johann Beissel, founder of the Ephrata community, taught that marriage represented a fall from grace. In the Amana Society and the Society of Separatists at Zoar, Ohio, celibacy was for a time deemed evidence of a higher spiritual state. This code of moralism was not present in the founders and guiding lights of the Pietist movement, including Spener, Francke, Wesley, and even Zinzendorf. While recognizing the merit in some of these practices, none of these men saw them as indicative of deeper sanctification nor as a prerequisite to full salvation.
On the modern scene two theologians who have reaffirmed the biblical call to holiness, but within the context of sola gratia are Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonheoffer was heavily influenced by Barth, and his Nachfolge (The Cost of Discipleship) was fully endorsed by Barth. Both these men reflect concerns of German Pietism as well as the Reformation. Barth has acknowledged his indebtedness to Johann Christoph Blumhardt and Kierkegaard and has spoken highly of Bengel and Zinzendorf.
Barth vigorously opposed a theology which takes for its point of departure man's religious experience (as in Schleiermacher), and this
is why he often appears highly critical of an overt concern for personal piety and holiness. At the same time he affirmed the reality of a true piety, a biblical piety that points beyond itself to Jesus Christ. While he was accustomed to speak of both justification and sanctification as realities that have happened to man in Jesus Christ, Barth nevertheless contended that these realities must make contact with the actual ongoing lives of people. Sanctification is something that has happened to man in the cross of Christ, but it must also take place within man by the power of His Spirit. Faith is not ony cognitive but creative and regenerative, though the regeneration which the Spirit works within man is necessarily incomplete and partial. Nevertheless, it is possible for the believer to be faithful and obedient to Christ, since his life is now grounded in Christ and directed to him. According to Barth, "man is righteous and holy before God and on the way to eternal life to the degree that he lives by the grace of God and therefore for the grace of God, for its glorification in his creaturely existence."24 In and of themselves these works are the product of a living trust in Christ, they are acceptable before God. Barth goes beyond the Reformation in his view that it is possible for the man in Christ to do works that are truly pleasing in the sight of God. He also diverges from Luther and Calvin in maintaining that sin is not a part of, but alien to, the nature of man, and this is especially true for the Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer inveighed against what he termed cheap grace, which has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works. Cheap grace is the grace that assures the pardon of God without demanding repentance and obedience. It is something guaranteed to man, either through the sacraments or preaching, without sounding the call to discipleship. It is the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Costly grace is the grace that cost God the life of his own Son, and it must also cost us ours, our reputations, our time, as we seek to follow Christ. "When Christ calls a man," Bonhoeffer says, "he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther's, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time -- death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call."25
Bonhoeffer departs from the Reformation in maintaining that obedience must sometimes preced the gift of faith. He acknowledges, however, that such obedience is a dead work or the law unless it is
fulfilled in a commitment of faith to Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer sees the relation of faith and obedience in terms of a paradox: only he who is obedient can believe, and only he who believes can be obedient.
According to Bonhoeffer the Reformers were mistaken in viewing the salt in Matthew 5:13 as the Gospel.26 The disciples themselves must be salt and light. They are called not only to uphold the Gospel before the world but to manifest the truth of the Gospel in their lives. The law of Christ must be not only taught but done, for "otherwise it is no better than the old law." The righteousness of Christ is not only a righteousness of faith; it must also be put into practice.
At the same time, Bonhoeffer is adamant that all the credit and glory for the practice of Christian righteousness must be given to God himself:
All our good works are the works of God himself, the works for which he has prepared us beforehand. Good works then are ordained for the sake of salvation, but they are in the end those which God himself works within us. They are his gift, but it is our task to walk in them at every moment of our lives, knowing all the time that any good works of our own could never help us to abide before the judgment of God.27
Even in his Letters and Papers from Prison Bonhoeffer maintains his intense concern for the practical demonstration of the Christian faith in daily life.28 His preoccupation now, however, is not simply with individual holiness but with social holiness. The Christian is summoned to strive and suffer "for the sake of justice, truth, and humanity." The ground of our faith is the reconciliation that God has worked for us in Christ, but the goal of our faith is the humanization of a world that has been bedeviled by a cultural and religious heritage that has crippled rather than supported man.
Justification and Sacntification
The call to holiness in the biblical sense cannot be adequately understood apart from an examination of the relation between justification and sanctification. Justification (dikaiosune) in the New Testament has primarily the forensic meaning of being accounted righteous before the divine tribunal. Sanctification (hagiasmos) means to be engrafted into the righteousness of God. Justification is imputed righteousness, whereas sanctification is imparted righteousness. In justification the guilt of sin is removed and in sanctification the stain of sin. Justification makes man acceptable to God; sanctification makes God
desirable to man. Justification confers a new status whereas sanctification instills in man a new character. As justification is related to faith, so sanctification is related to love. Justification has logical priority over sanctification, since man is justified while he is still in his sins (Romans 5:6-8). But sanctification is the invariable corollary of justification, just as love is the necessary concomitant of faith. He who is forgiven must (justification) will love much (sanctification) (Luke 7:40-47).
Paul Tillich is helpful in the distinctions that he makes between justification, regeneration, and sanctification.29 Justification is acceptance of the New Being; regeneration is participation in the New Being; sanctification is transformation by the New Being. On the human plane regeneration has priority over justification, since no one can accept the message without participating in the power of the message. As a divine act, however, these two facets of salvation are one. Sanctification necessarily follows, and is dependent on, justification and regeneration. Tilich reminds us that the Lutheran emphasis was on justification, whereas the Pietist and Methodist stress has been on regeneration. It is the Spirit who works faith within us, and faith is a creative as well as a cognitive event.
In our view regeneration is, in one sense, the subjective pole of justification insofar as the Holy Spirit as well as the atoning death of Christ plays a role in justification. Regeneration can also properly be considered the beginning of sanctification, which is a lifelong process. Tillich's analysis has much to commend it, but we must insist (and Tillich would agree) that it is not the reality of justification that is dependent on regeneration but rather its efficacy in human life. God's will to justify us is based on the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ, not on the actual righteousness which the believer possesses.
The traditional controversy between Reformation Protestantism and Roman Catholicism has revolved about this issue: whether justification is based on an inherent righteousness which the Spirit bestows on man, or whether the latter is the consequence of the former. The Reformers were adamant that justification goes out to the undeserving and that any progress toward holiness is based on God's gratuitous favor toward man. In the Catholic view people are justified only to the degree that they are actually and morally renewed. Justification is virtually absorbed into sanctification so that its forensic dimension is obscured or ignored. The danger in the Reformation position is that justification can be conceived of as exlusively forensic, to the neglect of hit mystical and eschatological dimensions. Hans Kung, in his celebrated work Justification, accepts that biblical and Reformed distinction
between justification and sanctification, though he is emphatic that the two can never be separated.30
Both Luther and Calvin affirmed the priority of justification (the sign of which is baptism). For Luther sanctification is not so much an increase in empirical piety as a continual taking refuge in Christ's righteousness. Progress in sanctification is a constant repetition of the beginning of justification. For Calvin, on the other hand, sanctification is a steady but sure ascent to Christian perfection. Justification is the narrow gate, while sanctification is the straight way. The metaphor that most clearly describes Luther's position is the ship or ark which holds sinners, not righteous people, but which is destined for the city of righteousness. If one falls away from grace, he must return to the ark (baptism). Calvin is more to be associated with the Augustinian and later medieval metaphor of the pilgrim road which begins at a definit point but on which some individual believers can make must more progress than others.
The ascetic dimension of Christian spirituality is considerably more pronounced in Calvinism than in original Lutheranism. It is especially apparent in this remark of Jonathan Edwards: "Without earnestness there is no getting along in that narrow way that leads to life ... Without earnest labor, there is no ascending the steep and high hill of Zion ... Slothfulness in the service of God ... is as damning as open rebellion."31
This ascetic dimension within Calvinism is again apparent in the way in which Calvin treated the Law of God. Whereas LUther saw the primary purpose of the Law as a mirror to show man his despair, Calvin saw it principally as a guide for Christian living. The Gospel does not so much abrogate the Law (as in Luther) but confirms and fulfills it. The Christian life consists not so much in freedom from the law as in keeping the commandments in the spirit of love.
Though Calvin regarded justification alone as the enduring basis of the Christian life, he strove to preserve a balance between justification and sanctification.32 His successors were often less zealous in this endeavor, particularly where Pietism came to be dominant.33 Yet the intent of the mainstream of Reformed theology was to regard both these facets of salvation as of prime importance, as can be seen in Heinrich Heppe's summary of othe historic Reformed position:
Man needs this sanctification exactly as he does justification. The elect are called not only to redemption from the curse of sins, but also the serious purpose of the sanctifcation of their hearts, since those who have found in Christ the atonement for the guilt of their sins ought also to rise with Christ to a new, holy life.34
Among many of the early Puritans humiliation was seen as chronologically prior to both justification and sanctification.35 Through the preaching of the Law people were convicted of sin and then driven to the cross in repentance and faith. This signifies a partial return to the Catholic view that man's justification is contingent on his cooperation with preparatory grace. Yet the Puritans were adamant that legal repentance, which brings remorse over guilt, is clearly to be distinguished from evangelical repentance, which proceeds from faith, an unmerited gift of God. This view of the heart prepared by prevenient grace coexisted with the old Calvinist view that man is dead in sin until he is awakened and justified by redemptive grace.
In the piety of the Reformation, as well as in certain strands of early Pietism and Puritanism, the Christian life is depicted as a struggle toward righteousness rather than possession of it. While the Pietists and Puritans were generally inclined to stress the "already" over the "not yet," the Reformers placed the emphasis on the latter. Luther maintained that the Christian life is not a matter of being but of becoming. It is not righteousness but justification, not purity but purification, not health but healing. It consists "not in victory, but in the fight ... not in comprehending, but in stretching forward."36 Luther's view is reiterated by Bonhoeffer: "The life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh."37
Calvin, more than Luther, underlined the need for personal sanctification, but he was convinced that sanctification always entails suffering, though the forgiveness of sins takes away its sting. Calvin reminds us that no matter how much the Christian is tormented by unbelief, it does not and cannot gain ascendancy: "Unbelief does not hold sway within believers' hearts, but assails them from without. It does not morally wound them with its weapons, but mearely harasses them, or at most so injures them that the wound is curable."38
Wesley reflected the emphasis in later Pietism by which sanctification was more and more distinguished and even separated from justification. In his interpretation of 1 John 1:9 he saw forgiveness as chronologically prior to being cleansed from all unrighteousness."39 Calvin,
on the other hand, was adamant that justification can no more be separated from sanctification than the heat of the sun can be divorced from its light. Wesley acknowledged that in the moment of justification or conversion our sanctification begins, but then he posited a second work of grace, entire sanctification, which he described as "complete salvation" or "full salvation." This work of grace, like the first, is unmerited, conditional not upon good works but upon faith alone. Yet the Christian can make progress toward it through the power of the Spirit within him. There can be no doubt that Wesley tended to subordinate justification to perfect sanctification, since the latter was seen as a still higher salvation. At the same time he was aware of this peril, urging that when we are about to speak of entire sanctification, "let us first describe the blessings of a justified state as strongly as possible." While Luther placed sanctification under the umbrella of justification, Wesley set sanctification alongside justification. In later revivalism justification was virtually absorbed into sanctification.40
Reformed piety has constantly warned of the danger of losing sight of justification as the ground and goal of Christian life. Justification is not mere forgiveness of sins (as in the Arminian view) but the eradication of sin and guilt through faith in Jesus Christ. What has been removed de jure by Christ (justification) must be taken away de facto by the Holy Spirit (sanctification), but the latter is always dependent on the former. In Kuyper's words: "It wounds the very heart of the Reformed confession when the pulpit aims at sanctification without zeal for justification."41 Berkouwer avers that the "heart of sanctifcation is the life which feeds on justification." Torroance sees sanctification as the continual unfolding and maintaining of our justification.42
Sanctification is to be deemed not a higher stage than justification (as in the Arminian view) but the concrete enactment of justification in our lives. Sanctification signifies the personal or interior appropriation of the fruits of justification. Paul declares: "Those whom he called he also justified; and those wh om he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Paul does not here expressly mention sanctification, though this concept is implied in verse 29 and also presumably included in glorification in verse30. The point is that justification reaches all the way from calling and conversion to glorification. Daily we need forgiveness, justification, for a right standing before God. This must be affirmed against all kinds of perfectionism.
The danger on the other side is, of course, giving justification such primacy that sanctification is relegated to the background. This is more evident in the neo-Lutheranism of Nygren, Elert, Prenter, and Jensen
than in the neo-Reformed theology of Karl Barth. Prenter sees the Christian life as a circular movement, whereby we begin and end in a state of faith and repentance, rather than as a steady progression toward perfection.43 Empirical piety is not denied, but it is always subordinated to the alien reighteousness of Christ, which alone justifies and sanctifies. He is certainly correct that empirical piety does not pardon or take away sin, but is it not the supreme sign and evidence of our pardon and purification?
There is also a tendency in neo-Lutheran theology to depict man as wholly passive not only in justification but also in sanctification. Jensen declares: "Holiness is either God's work in us or our work for God. It is one or the other."44 To be sure, we are justified apart from our works (though not apart from the experience of faith), but we are sanctified always through works of love. Sanctification is by grace alone, but this grace moves man toward good works, and it is efficacious only in and through these works. Good works give shape and meaning to man's sanctification.45 Jensen also insists that sanctification or holiness is alien to man's being. It is certainly alien to the perception of the man of faith, but it is not alien to his being, since it signifies a change or alteration in his being. Indeed, we can even speak of sanctification as an ontological change within man by which he is given new motivations, new hopes, and a new heart.46
Finally, it is important to remember that justification and sanctification have both an objective and a subjective pole. The objective pole is Jesus Christ, for he has been made our justification and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30; cf. Heb. 10:10). [Seems that Bloesch is equating holiness with sanctification. But this webmaster feels that sanctification should be considered a separate work of God on behalf of and within those who are redeemed, not just lumping it in with holiness / righteousness which is more imputed directly through faith in His work on the cross to cleanse from sin). The subjective pole is faith (for justification) and love (for sanctification). Karl Barth is noted for his emphasis on the objective reality of both justification and sanctification to the detriment of their subjective realization. He can even say: "Sanctification is entirely God's grace. It is not man's affiar, but God's -- the affair of the God who works for man in Jesus Christ."47 This, of course, ignores the divine imperative that we should sanctify and purify ourselves (Lev. 11:44; James 4:8). At the same time, Barth corrects this kind of objectivism by recognizing that man is summoned to works of love which give shape and substance to his sanctification. Robert D. Brinsmead of Present Truth magazine also errs in the direction of objectivism when he says: "Justification is an act of God's grace that is wholly outside the experience of the one who believes."48 This imbalance can be detected in a certain kind of Lutheran orthodoxy which depicts justification as wholly extrinsic and forensic. Justification and sanctification have happened objectively for all people, but they have not yet happened in them or to them.
All people are claimed for justification and sanctification, but no one is justified or sanctified until he believes.49
Few doctrines have created more divisiveness throughout the history of the church than Christian perfection. Yet it is indisputable that the SCriptures call us not only to seek holiness in our walk of lilfe but also to press on toward the goal of perfect holiness in Christ. The words of our Lord are unmistakably clear: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48; cf. Lev. 20:7-8) Paul advised that we should "cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). His prayer for the Thessalonians was: "Maya the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men ... so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:12-13; cf. Eph. 1:4; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 3:9).
To be sure, Jesus Christ is depicted as having perfected for all time "those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14), but it is incumbent on the believer to strive for this perfection in his own life (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is both a gift and a task. It has been accomplished by Christ in his sacrificial work on Calvary, the fruits of which are applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit. At the same time, it is realized through our striving and prayers. Empirical piety, works of love, are a sign and manifestation of holiness but not its essence. The essence of holiness is the love of God poured out upon our hearts. We do not earn or create holiness, but we can and must work toward it.
The righteousness of the Christian is the higher righteousness of self-sacrificing love to those who do us wrong. It means love toward enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who abuse us (Luke:27-28). This is the righteousness that will exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). It is a spiritual righteousness that supersedes all forms of civil righteousness.
In Catholic theology it was believed possible for Christians to attain this higher perfection, and consequently distinctions came to be drawn between Christians. The "perfect" were those who embraced and fulfilled the evangelical counsels, those who lived lives of exemplary dedication, those whose merits were superabundant. For Bonaventure
the culmination of the ascent to perfection consists in "the enjoyment of eternal delights" through mystical rapture.50 The author of The Cloud of unknowing perceived four levels in the Christian life beginning with the "common" and culminating in the "perfect"; the perfect retire from the world and engage in contemplation. In heretical movements like Gnosticism and Montanism ordinary Christians were called psychics, those who still lived by animal standards, while the Spirit-filled, those whose lives were characterized by perfect dedication, were the pneumatics. The term saints came to denominate those who suffered publicly for the faith or those whose holiness became widely known through extraordinary feats of asceticism.
Happily, there remained within the church enough Christian realism to recognize that remnants of sin persist even in sanctified Christians and that the beatific vision of God cannot be fully realized while we are still in mortal flesh. For Augustine the saints are praiseworthy not because of their sinlessness but because of their poignant awareness of their continuing sin and their striving in hope for a perfection that will become a reality only after death. Bernard of Clairvaux, who sounded the call to sanctity throughout his life, said at his death: "O I have lived damnably and passed my life shamefully."
Against the perfectionism endemic to Catholicism the Reformers contended that the sanctification attainable in this life is only partial and rudimentary. In Luther's words: "Paul also calls Christians righteous, holy, and free from sin, not because they are, but because they have begun to be and should become people of this kind by making constant progress."51 He depicted the Christian as a convalescent who, if he is in too much of a hurry to get well, "runs the chance of suffering a serious relapse." The whole of the Christian life is a cure from sin; the church is a hospital or nursing home for those who are still sick. Calvin's contention was that Christians are "partly unbelievers," and must therefore constantly "fly to Christ for aid." It follows that "the highest perfection of the godly in this life is an earnest desire to make progress."52 Nevertheless, Calvin, much more than Luther, upheld the goal of Christian perfection, a goal that could be approximated in the here and now. "Perfection must be the final mark at which we aim, and the goal for which we strive."53
Philip Spener did much to bring Christian perfection to the attention of the church once again. He distinguished between "having" and "committing" sin and "keeping" and "fulfilling" the law. We cannot be free from evil desires and thoughts, but was can be free from willful transgressions.
For "even if we shall never in this life achieve such a degree of perfection that nothing could or should be added, we are nevertheless under obligation to achieve some degree of perfection."54
Francke followed Spener in stressing the need to strive for Christian perfection but at the same time recognizing that one can never be free from sin in this life.55 For Francke the believer is both perfect and imperfect. He is perfect in Christ, since through faith he is covered by the imputed righteousness of Christ. Yet he remains imperfect in his manner of life constantly falling shor of the ideal of perfection embodied in Christ, however much progress he may make toward it by the power of the Spirit.
In Puritanism the reality of the continuing sinfulness of the Christian was duly recognized, though this was counterbalanced by an acknowledgment of the very real work of inward sanctification accomplished by the Holy Spirit. John Bunyan was keenly aware that the saint "when he hath done what he can to bring forth good works by faith, yet he dares not shew these works before God but as they pass through the Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood of the Lamb."56 J.C. Ryle observed: "The holiest men have many a blemisth and defect when weighted in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome."57 Our very repentance, George Whitefield believed, "needeth to be repented of, and our very tears to be washed in the blood of Christ."58 That nineteenth-century heir of Pietism, Kohlbrugge, agreed taht even when we are obedient to God's commandment, we need the cleansing of the blood of Christ.59 Perfection was held to be a lifelong process not completed until death. In the words of the Shorter Westminster Catechism: "The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory." 60
Wesley went further in claiming that Christian perfection, understood as freedom from inward sin, can be attained by any believer through faith in Christ. This is not an absolute perfection, where people are spotless and faultless before the throne of God, but a relative perfection, which reflects the gloryo and radiant love of Christ and which admits of a greater degree. "Scriptural perfection," he wrote, "is pure love filling the heart and governing all the words and actions." Insofar as he is motivated by pure love, the Christian can be free from the impulsion to sin. Yet because of ignorance he can never be free from sins of omission and therefore must constantly depend upon God for forgiveness. Christian perction means freedom from sin as a conscious
transgression of a known norm but not escape from the error and frailty that are part of the human condition.61
The Holiness movement, which was inspired by Wesley, was inclined to minimize or ignore the presence of sin in the life of the sanctified Christian by conceiving of the second blessing as total purification. Some strands within this movement spoke of sinless perfection, though this idea was disputed by many.62 It followed as a logical corollary from Wesley's contention that all iniward sin in eradicated in the gift of entire sanctification. Moreover, Wesley's definition of sin as a conscious act of wrong-doing prepared the way for a surface view of sin which does not consider that sin is essntially a state of being out of which proceed wrong actions. Jonathan Edwards warned of this when he referred to "the labyrinthian depth of self-deception in the human heart." The Holiness movement nonetheless recovered the note of victory in the Christian life and, at its best, recognized that the life of sanctification entails conflict and struggle. The perfected Christian can never be free from trials and temptations, though he is promised the possibility of victory over actual sin. Hannah Whitall Smith reminds us that great temptations are a sign of great grace, not of little grace. J. Sidlow Baxter perceptively observes that the nearer we come to the idea of perfection, t'he less conscious of it we are, and the more humblingly conscious are we of our own imperfection."63
Kierkegaard, who was also intensely interested in the Christian life, presented a somewhat different picture in his Lutheran emphasis upon the continuing sinfulness of the Christian and the constant need for grace and forgiveness. Christ must be upheld as Model but only because, first of all, he is confessed as Savior: "The true imitation is not produced by preaching on the theme: Thou shalt imitate Christ: but as a result of preaching about how much Christ has done for me. If a man grasps and feels that truly and profoundly then the imitation will follow naturally."64 As he saw it, "The forgiveness of sins ... does not mean to become a new man under happier circumstances, but to become a new man in the consoling assurance that the guilt is forgiven, even though the consequences of sin remain."65 He did not mean that the penalty for sin continues, but that after-effects of sin remain. The Christian is no longer afflicted by the curse of sin, but he continues to be bruised and weakened by sin.
Neo-orthodoxy reclaimed the Reformation emphasis on the helplessness and sinfulness of man, but the summons to Christian perfection was seldom heard. Reinhold Niebuhr referred to love as an "impossible possibility," a transcendent ideal that can only be approximated
and partially realized in personal relationships. In affirming that one is "saved in principle, not in fact," he tended to underplay the reality of sanctification. His emphasis was on "a sober and watchful life," not a victorious life.
Karl Barth was much more open to the idea of sanctification and even allowed for the possibility of Christian perfection so long as one would remain totally in Christ. Yet he recognized that sin intrudes ever again into the life of the Christian and that therefore the man of faith, in whom the victory of Christ is only imperfectly reflected, must still struggle against sin. "Good works," Barth declared, "are always works of repentance, works in which our sin is recognized, workds in which we pray for the divine mercy, works in which we are helped because they are not the works of self-help, but a sighing -- and finally and inwardly a happy sighing -- for the help of God."66
In presenting our own position we must first point out that there are two kinds of perfection -- that of Jesus Christ, which is perfect, and that of the Christian, his own works of love, which is forever imperfect. Yet we can speak of a Christian perfection that is possible for the believer -- not an ethical perfection (which Wesley referred to) but a perfection of faith. Christian perfection is an evangelical, not a legal, perfection. Its measure is faith, not any kind of work, and at every stage it remains dependent on the forgiveness of sins. It is a spiritual maturity reflected in increasing dependence on God and on the merits of Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 5:14; 6:1). "It is," says Forsyth, "a perfection of attitude rather than of achievement, of relation more than of realization, of trust more than of behavior."67 It is the perfection of a relationship with Christ, not a perfection of conduct or character. Christ will not leave us to our sin, but he leaves us in our sin so that we might ever more cleave to him in repentance and faith (Forsyth). We have the promise of victory over every particular sin but not of escape from the very presence of sin either outside us or within us. We must repent of our virtues as well as our vices, because sin accompanies every good work, and yet we have the full assurance that the perfect love of Christ covers the multitude of our sins (cf. James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8). The hallmark of maturity in Christ is a boldness of faith and a freedom of love which make our very lives a vibrant witness to the love of Jesus Christ. The fullness of perfection ever lies before us (as Wesley also recognized), but even now we can grow up and be mature in Jesus Christ.
As he moves toward an ever greater perfection, however, the Christian is ever more conscious of his imperfection. The fruits of his faith are visible to others but not to himself. In Calvin's view, "the more
eminently that any one excels in holiness, the father he feels himself from perfect righteousness, and the more clearly he perceives that he can trust in nothing but the mercy of God alone."68 Luther realized that "it profiteth us very much to feel sometimes the wickedness of our nature and corruption of our flesh, that even by this means we may be waked and stirred up to faith and to call upon Christ."69 Bonhoeffer agreed that "the saints are only conscious of the strife and distress, the weakness and sin in their lives; and the further they advance in holiness, the more they feel they are fighting a losing battle and dying in the flesh."70 Our assurance is based not on our good works, which ware hidden from us, but on the promise of the mercy of Christ.
The Christian life is a movement from faith to faith. Faith cannot be replaced by anything else, even love. Love is the flower of faith, but it is always dependent upon its foundation -- trust and confidence in the mercy of Jesus Christ on the cross. The genuine Christian will forever focus his attention not on his own piety or works of love but on God's act of reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. He will be oblivious to his own works even while assiduously serving his neighbor in love. In Luther's words: "He who believes in Christ empties himself and becomes disengaged from his own works, in order that Christ may live and work in him."71 Pietism and Methodism rightly perceived that there is also a place for examining our lives to whether we are really doing the will of God. Yet later in these movements attention began to be focused unduly on the self, and one became preoccupied with one's own salvation rather than with serving the flory of God and the cause of his kingdom. Our faith is deepened and strengthened not by continuous introspection but by outgoing service to God and neighbor.
A catholic evangelical theology will seek to learn from all the great spiritual movements of the past, including medieval Catholicism, without succumbing to their pitfalls. There is even a place for the doctrine of the saints in a true evangelical piety. We are thinking here not only of the company of the saints, which is the church triumphant and militant, but of individual saints whose lives noticeably reflect and bear witness to the passion and victory of Christ. Such persons are not necessarily paradigms of virtue but public signs and witnesses of the One who alone is perfectly holy -- namely, Jesus Christ. While they are not conscious of their holiness, they may well be poignantly aware that God is working in them and through them to bring others to Christ.72 They know in their hearts that ever again they fail to live upl to God's expectations, but they also know that God will never fail them. They
are potent testimonies to the reality of divine sanctification in the lives of his people. Their perfection is one of persevering faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, manifested in a life of outgoing love to the poor and despised of this world. Such individuals can be held up in the church as models of holiness, though it must always be pointed out that their holiness is symbolic and derivative, that it has its source and goal in the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ that alone atones for sin.
Holiness in the World
In contrast to an ethereal mystical spirituality evangelical piety emphasizes a holiness in the world. The world is deemed the theater of God's glory (Calvin), where Christians are to live out their vocations in vicarious identification with the needs of their neighbors. Discipleship is interpreted not in terms of withdrawal into a cloister but of wounded servanthood, bearing the cross in the midst of the agony of the world. Bonheoffer put it this way:
The antithesis between the world and the Church must be borne out in the world. That was the purpose of the incarnation. That is why Christ died among his enemies. That is the reason and the only reason why the slave must remain a slave and the Christian remain subject to the powers that be.73
This evangelical strand was not absent in the tradition of Christian mysticism, but attention was focused more upon the vision of God than service to our neighbor. Gregory the Great contended that the contemplative should regret the necessity of action even when it becomes a matter of duty. Other mystics, however, spoke of a spiritual fecundity whereby one pours out the fruits of his contemplation in love to others. Yet even among these persons the cloister was seen as a surer road to salvation than the active lofe in the world. Some mystics, under the influence of Quietism, upheld a "holy indifference" over vicarious identification.
In the mysticism of the Eastern religions the call to detachment and withdrawal from the world is even more pronounced. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the world as maya (illusion) and lila (the play of the gods). But in the Bible the world is real, not an illusion; it is solid, not a jest. It is not abrogated by God but instead is the arena of his action. People are saved not from the world of nature but in it.
Whereas mysticism placed the emphasis on the journey inward, Luther stressed the importance of breaking out of the self into service to others. For the Reformers the road to God is the road to our neighbor's needs.
Works of piety must be supplemented by works of mercy, though the latter should always be grounded in the former. Worship without morality is indeed positively displeasing to God.
The need to identify oneself with the suffering and travail in the world is made dramatically clear by Calvin:
Christians certainly ought to display more than a smiling face, a cheerful mood, and polite language when they practise charity ... Christians ought to imagine themselves in the place of the person who needs their help, and they ought to sympathize with him as though they themselves were suffering; they ought to show real mercy and humaneness and offer their assistance as readily as if it were for themselves.74
Schleiermacher, in his earlier phase, reflects a mystical more than an evangelical spirituaity, since he placed the accent on detachment and contemplation In his Speeches to the Cultured Despisers of Religion he contended that a pious person does not theorize or perform but sits quietly in a corner experiencing life in receptive contemplation. The experience of piety is passive, not active. The essence of piety is neither knowing nor doing but feeling. Silence is valued over words and contemplation over action. God-consciousness is contrasted with world-consciousness, which is seen as an impediment to spiritual progress. This orientation is considerably qualified, however, in his Dogmatics, where he cautions against withdrawal from the world: "Still less is there room for an arbitrary flight from the sphere of temptation which would be at the same time a flight from the sphere of duty ... Fellowship with Him is always a fellowship with His mission to the world, and this such a withdrawal would contradict."75
The themes of contemplation, meitation, and silence became prominent again in Pietism and Puritanism. Yet a biblical perspective genearlly predominated over a Platonic one. Contemplation was reinterpreted to mean living one's whole life toward the love of God. All activities should be performed in a constant awareness of God. Silence was used not to get beyond the Word (as in neo-Platonism) but to prepare oneself for it.
Asceticism, too, came to be appreciated in these movements, but as Troeltsch and Weber have observed, it was an "inner-worldly asceticism." The emphasis was on expanding the kingdom of God in the world rather than calling people out of the world into a purely spiritualized kingdom. Detachment was prized but only for the purpose of greater involvement in the world. An urgency for action distinguished the Puritans. In this spirit John Preston warned: "Cowardliness may
lose your souls," for just as "Christ takes notice" if you "suffer for him," so he does if you "decline the cross."76 In order to lay hold of the assurance of his salvation, one must assent not only to the promise of the Gospel but also to its demands, which may very well entail persecution and imprisonment and even martyrdom. Patience in bearing the cross is not enough: one must cultivate courage and not lose opportunities for doing good through fear or cowardice. The saints can prepare the way for the kingdom of God and must not simply wait in blissful expectation.
Whereas Lutheranism sought to come to terms with the political order in such a way as to preserve freedom of worship, Calvinism laid the foundations for a new political order, one that would be shaped by the law of God revealed in the Bible. Troeltsch trenchantly observed that Calvinism, must more than Lutheranism, was politically creative and therefore also politically subversive. In Lutheranism the intramundane asceticism took the form of a metaphysical depreciation of the sinful world, whereas in Calvinism it took the form of the methodical disciplining of life. Calvinism endorses all legitimate worldly means to produce a holy community, but it reduces these to a means only, having no particular value in themselves. In early Calvinism assurance of election was integral to faith itself, and consequently the believer was freed "to give all his attention to the effort to moul the world and society according to the Will of God."77 In later Calvinism and Puritanism assurance was seen as conditional on one's obedience to the claims of the Gospel. This vision of a holy community is not to be confused with the eternal kingdom of God; it is best understood as a secular sign of this kingdom. Coercion plays a significant role in such a community because its citizens are still sinners, and their sinfulness must be restrained, if necessary by the sword.
The privatization of religion was singularly absent in both Pietism and Puritanism. More than the Pietists, the Puritans sought to influence the political order directly because of their vision of a holy commonwealth. They rightly perceived that God's Word calls not only for the conversion and nurture of people's souls in the fellowship of the church but also for the creation of a new social order where righteousness reigns.78
The vision of a holy commonwealth is in our estimation still viable, though it must be considerably qualified in the light of the pluralistic religious basis of modern industrial nations. The disturbing thing about Watergate was not just the private immorality, which was rightly denounced by the general populace, but the lack of any comparable outcry
against the immorality in the wider public realm as practiced in the higher quarters of the government of that time. We are thinking here of the bombing of open villages in Viet Nam, the terminating of welfare aid, and the growing disparity between rich and poor. Yet against the New Left we maintain that only one who holds to absolute standards in private life can also consistently hold to absolute or transcendent norms in public life.
Liberation and political theology today generally stands within the Augustinian and Calvinistic "Christ transforming culture" tradition, though it very easily slides into a "Christ of culture" position, especially where Christianity is virtually equated with democratic socialism. Jurgen Moltmann, who draws upon Pietism as well as the Reformation, is adamant that the Christian faith teaches the need for personal inward change as well as a change in circumstances and structures. The decision of faith entails a breakthrough into meaning as well as a commitment to social justice. Yet in Moltmann salvation is emptied of its supernatural content and too easily becomes identified with liberation for human dignity and responsibility. In his view the purpose of the incarnation is to enable man to learn to accept and bear his humanity.79
Hans Kung in his social-critical theology is more concerned than Moltmann to differentiate the Christian meaning of salvation from political and economic liberation, though he sees the one leading into the other.80 Redemption, which is liberation by God, sets man free to enter the struggle for emancipation, which is man's self-liberation. At the same time, Kung also conceives salvation primarily as the realization of man's humanity rather than deliverance from the condemnation of hell or transformation into the image of God's glory.
The Life of Prayer
While evangelical piety focuses attention on the agaonizing needs of the world, it does not lose sight of the truth that all social service must be grounded in a life of prayer. Prayer is the very "soul of faith" (Calvin), and its neglect means the demise of true religion. Joseph Sittler has rightly observed: "Love is the function of faith horizontally just as prayer is the function of faith vertically."81 Prayer is both a gift and a command: it is a command made possible by an outpouring of divine grace. For John Preston prayer is the "banquet of grace," so it can be said that "a man of much prayer is a man of much grace."82
The founders and luminaries of the Reformation as well as of later Evangelicalism were all people of prayer. Luther spent several hours in prayer daily. Philip Spener rose every morning while it was still dark for private prayer and afterward assembled his entire household for morning prayers. John Wesley rose at 4:00 A.M. for several hours of prayer and meditation. The great missionary outreach of evangelical Protestantism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was grounded in the intercessory prayer of very dedicated yet humble people.
Biblical or evangelical prayer, it should be noted, differs from the prayer of primitive religion and even from the prayer of omysticism. Friedrich Heiler, in his monumental work Prayer: History and Psychology, compares five different types of prayer in the phenomenology of religion.83 Primitive prayer is motivated by fear and need and seeks to persuade and even control the divine power or powers for its own purposes. Its goal is the attainment of earthly aims and escape from misfortune. Ritual prayer formalizes the spontaneous petitions in primitive religion, but the magical intent is even more obvious. Vain repetitions and incantations are performed by a priestly caste. Philosophical prayer reduces prayer to resignation or thanksgiving. In mysticism prayer becomes contemplative adoration of the infinite, and petition, if it is allowed at all, is seen as a lower or carnal form of prayer. Prophetic prayer, which Heiler associates with the biblical religions, consists of spontaneous petitions made out of love as well as need and for the purpose of fulfilling God's will in the world. It is the pouring out of the heart before God more than the elevating of the mind to God (as in mysticism).84 It is based on the presupposition that God is supremely personal and hears and answers petitions made with sincerity of heart, though in his own way and time. Heiler's depiction of prophetic prayer is amazingly close to our own understanding of evangelical prayer.
True prayer is not only resignation and submission but striving with God, pleading with God, seeking to change the ways of God with his people so that his ultimate will might be more surely or fully accomplished. God's ultimate purposes are unchangeable, but his immediate will is flexible and open to change through the prayers of his children. Prayer is "filial reciprocity" (Forsyth), for it entails a dialogic encounter whereby man proposes and God disposes (Prov. 16:1, 33). Such prayer often takes the form of complaint and question (Exod. 5:22-23; Psalms 44:23-24; 55:17; Jer. 12:1), since God wants us to understand his decisions, and only by searching and questioning do we understand.
Evangelical prayer is based on the view that a sovereign God can and does make himself dependent on the requests of his children. He chooses to realize his purposes in the world in collaboration with his people. To be sure, God knows our needs before we ask, but he desires that we discuss them with him so that he might work with us as his covenant partners toward their solution. There is, of course, a time to submit as well as a time to strive and wrestle with God in prayer, but this should come always at the end of prayer and never at the beginning. Moreover, our submission is not a passive resignation to fate but a relinquishing of our desires and requests into the hands of a living God to answer as he wills.
While petition is dominant in evangelical prayer and is indeed present to some degree in all prayer which takes its inspiration from the Bible, it must not be regarded as the only mode of prayer. True prayer also takes the form of thanksgiving, confession, and adoration. Forsyth maintained that adoration should be present at both the beginning and culmination of our plrayers since, if they remain exclusively petitionary, they become incurably anthropocentric and bereft of reverence to God. On the other hand, the complementary modes of prayer presuppose petition, since we must ask God to accept and crown our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and also to hear our confessions. We could not approach the throne of grace apart from faith in the Mediator Jesus Christ who prays for us and in us, and who presents our sacrifices and intercessions to the Father. This is why all Christian prayer should be offered in the name of Jesus.
With the shift in theology to a panentheistic or pantheistic stance, prayer has come to be reinterpreted as soliloquy, reflection on life or meditation on the ground of being. Moltmann contends that one can no longer pray to God but only in God, that is, in the spirit of God.85 Schleiermacher, who denied the efficacy of petitionary prayer, believed that prayer should take the form only of gratitude, resignation, or meditation. Tillich sees prayer as an openness to the ground or depth of being rather than a petition to alter the ways of God. In some circles prayer is understood as a consciousness raising experience which brings us into tune with the infinite. In others prayer is reduced to a technique whereby we come to know ourselves in a new way. Or it is a method by which one arrives at inner serenity.
True prayer is neither a magic formula nor a therapeutic technique. Rather it is a dialogic encounter with the living God whose Spirit enables us to pray and who prays for us in groans too deep for words when we cannot adequately verbalize our needs (Romans 8:23, 26). In prayer
we do not so much ascend to God as he descends to us and meets us on our level (cf. Isaiah 64:1, 5). In the outpouring of his Spirit we are enabled to give voice to our complaints and trials and seek for his aid and mercy. We do not tap into spiritual power (as today's pop mysticism would have it), but receive power from on high and are therefore enabled to pray from the innermost depths of our being.
Prayer is not so much an address directed to God as a spontaneous outburst of praise and supplication in response to God's gracious outreach to man. Prayer will invariably take the form of structured address and of ritualized formula because man, in his weakness, desires a crutch in his relationship with the divine. But in those moments when he is impelled by the interior movement of the Spirit to cry out to God as a child to his loving father, he transcends the prayer of rote and enters into biblical or prophetic prayer, the conversation of the heart with God.
We do not deny the rightful and necessary place for a structured order of worship when God's people come together to praise God and to hear his Word. Christian prayer is not only private but also corporate, and the latter especially lends itself to set or prescribed forms. Nor do we rule out the possibility that read preayer in a liturgical service, either on the part of the pastor alone or by the congregation, can be genuine prayer if it proceeds from the heart. Yet more often than not in a church where liturgy is emphasized over free prayer the lilberating movement of the Spirit is impeded. James Denney, who here reflects the Protestant bias against high churchism, nonetheless gives a timely word of warning: "A liturgy, however beautiful, is a mealancholy witness to the quenching of the Spirit: it may be better or worse than the prayers of one man, but it could never compare for fervour with the spontaneous prayers of a living church."86
Our concern in this section is not with holiness in the world but with worldliness in the church. When the church becomes acculturized and secularized, it can no longer penetrate the world as a leaven; instead, it contributes to the vacuity and dissolution of the surrounding culture.
Syncretistic mysticism is one manifestation of a worldly or cultural Christianity. The Gnostics in the early church sought to come to terms with the Hellenistic mythos by reinterpreting Christianity as one of the ways to salvation from the prison of materiality. They held up
gnosis (knowledge), which enabled the soul to escape from the flux and change of life and to find assurance of immortality. The dualism of spirit and matter, which was endemic to Platonism, persisted in Gnosticism. Manichaeism, another form of syncretism, sought to absorb elements from Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity. The body was depicted as a material prison in which the soul was confined. Salvation was based on right knowledge of man's true nature and a desire to return to the realm of light. In the neo-Platonic mysticism which infiltrated Christianity, it was taught that the world of sense is entirely opposed to the Idea of the Good. Against these various heresies Augustine saw in the life of this world the radiance of the heavenly world.
Biblical Christianity teaches not escape from the world into a heavenly realm but the renewal of both heaven and earth by the transforming grace of Christ. H. Richard Niebuhr rightly maintains that Christ "does not direct attention away from this world to another; but from all worlds, present and future, material and spiritual, to the One who creates all worlds, who is the Other of all worlds."87
Legalism is another form of worldly Christianity. In this heresy one's salvation is held to be conditional upon one's moral rectitude. Holiness is viewed as a human achievement rather than as a gift of God. One of Paul's primary tasks in his Epistle to the Galatians was to combat the legalism of the Judaizers, who made circumcision a prerequisite to entry into the family of God.
Perhaps the most subtle form of works-righteousness is faith-moralism, in which lip service is paid to the doctrine of justification by faith, but faith is seen as a human work or virtue. We must remember that faith is not a virtuous quality within man but the new creation of grace that enables man to believe, to hope, and to obey. Arminius opened the door to faith moralism by regarding faith as the first cause of justification, not the instrument by which man accepts justification. In his opinion the faith which resides in man as a potential quality is the basis for the imputation of righteousness. This stands in contrast to the Reformation principle that "justification is the utterly paradoxical imputation of righteousness to the sinner, in contrast to his moral condition, and without regard to the moral alteration in him."88
It was against the legalism of the Jews that Paul reminded his hearers that we do not have a righteousness of our own based on law (Philippians 3:9). Instead our righteousness is based on faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which alone entitles us to heaven. "Our purest works," declared J.C. Ryle, "are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God's law."89 It is not the quantity of our moral exercise
but the quality of our faith that makes us effective ambassadors of Christ (Forsyth).
Antinomianism is the opposite peril of legalism. Here it is maintained that because salvation is assured through the grace of Christ, the Christian is thereby freed from the obligations of the law. Free grace becomes cheap grace, since it saves but does not rule the lives of its subjects. Luther opened the door to this pitfall by conceiving of holiness as God's productivity and activity, not man's. Insofar as man can do nothing apart from God's grace, this is a viable position, but it overlooks the fact that man is called to a holy life on the basis of grace. The early Barth also reflected antinomian tendencies in his devastating critique of the pietism and moralism that characterized culture-Protestantism. "Depth of feeling, strength of conviction, advance in perception and in moral behaviour," he averred, "are no more than things which accompany the birth of faith. Being of this world, they are in themselves no more than unimportant signs of the occurrence of faith."90 Yet our Lord tells us that if we do not bear fruit in works of piety and love, we will lose the grace that is given to us (Matthew 25:14-30).
Modern evangelicalism frequently depicts sanctification as simply yielding oneself to God. Its motto is: "Let go, and let God." This ignores the truth that Scriptural holiness entails warfare and struggle in carrying forward the banner of Christ. In the words of Bishop Ryle: "A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier's life, a wrestling, are ... characteristic of the true Christian."91
The law of sowing and reaping is not annulled by the Gospel of grace but altered and redirected. In Christ we reap what he sows, that is, peace, righteousness, hope, and love. Outside of Christ we reap what we ourselves sow, that is, enmity, discord, terror, and death. Yet the believer is only in Christ when he abides in Christ and walks in his light. We turn away from Christ when we take his law for granted, when we acknowledge him as Savior without following him as Lord, when we do what we please and not what pleases Christ. We also find ourselves outside of Christ when we trust in our own efforts and goodness as the ground of our security.
Eudaemonism is another temptation that beguiles many people to embark on a spurious road to holiness. This is the ethical stance of ARistotle, which sees the goal in life as man's own well-being or happiness. In medieval Catholicism holiness was viewed as a higher happiness, but the Aristotelian motif was still very pervasive.92 The equation of holiness and happiness was also extremely prevalent in Protestant Pietism. This is a subtle error, since Christians may very well be happy
as the world understands it. But when happiness is made a Christian goal, the values of this world have usurped the cross of Christ. Then egocentric religion has supplanted theocentric religion. It is important to bear in mind that being happy (eudaemonon) is qualitatively different from the state of being blessed (makarios), which Christ extols in the beatitudes. Luther pointed to th is difference when he described the hallmark of the Christian life as a "comforted despair." Calvin agreed that "this life, taken by itself, is full of unrest, trouble and misery, and not really happy from any point of view."93 What the Christian can be assured of is not the absence of conflict but the gladness of knowing that his sins are forgiven. The Christian is summoned to bear the cross sometimes even at the expense of his own physical and emotional well-being (cf. Psalm 44:22). He will nevertheless have in the midst of his suffering an inner joy, and in the midst of his anguish a peace that passes all understanding.
Worldliness also infiltrates the church whenever a sacramentalist mentality become dominant. Here forgiveness is assured through the sacraments without any clear call to repentance or summons to obedience. In this kind of objectivism salvation is something conferred on us through the ministrations of the church rather than something that one must appropriate through a lifelong struggle.
Other forms of objectivism are predestinarianism, which locates salvation completely outside us in the eternal decrees of God, and Christomonism, where sanctification is said to take place in Christ and not in the sinner. "Christ in you," then becomes a status objectively realized in Christ for all people, not a promise subjectively attained in faith and obedience.94
Worldliness even asserts itself in perfectionism, particularly when those who aspire to Christian perfection fall into the delusion that they have arrived. We need to take seriously Paul's confession: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12). Paul reminds us that perfect holiness will not be attained until the end of our journey: "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
James Dunn, a trenchant critic of current revivalism, gives these words of wisdom:
The antithesis between the inward man and the flesh is not overcome and left behind, it continues through and beyond the shout of thanksgiving -- as a continuing antithesis between mind and flesh ... The religious experience of the believer is characterized by paradox and conflict -- the paradox of life and death, the conflict of Spirit and flesh. It is a religion of Anfechtung -- of faith always assailed by question and doubt, of life always assailed by death, of Spirit always assailed by flesh.95
Religious enthusiasm is still another perversion of Scriptural holiness. Here the attention is focused not on ethical fruits or the cross of suffering but on extraordinary experiences which function as outward signs of sanctity. Among the signs prized by enthusiasts through the ages have been the stigmata, dreams, miracles, visions, speaking in tongues, and dancing in the Spirit. The Puritans encouraged people to look for such signs or evidences as zeal, love, and faith, but they distrusted any claim to extraordinary gifts or experiences. There is nonetheless a danger when religion becomes conscious of itself as a relilgion. True sanctity is oblivious to its own merits. Our Lord warns that the leeft hand should not know what the right hand does (Matthew 6:3). Loud boasts of folly should not be mistaken for religious certainty (cf. 2 Peter 2:18). While grace will have visible effects in our lives that can be discerned by others, grace itself is hidden and imperceptible to the senses. In this light we can appreciate Barth's remark: "Grace is and remains always in this world negative, invisible, and hidden; the mark of its operation is the declaration of the passing of this world and of the end of all things."96
The call to holiness is also distorted by a certain kind of social activism that confuses kingdom righteousness with social justice and Christian charity with humanitarianism. Ritschl laid the ground work for an unbiblical Social Gospel by asserting that the purpose of justification is to serve the ethical striving for the attainment of the perfect society of persons. Forgiveness was seen as the divine companionship that enables the sinner after every defeat to arise and resume his ethical task. Only by engaging in civic work for the common good, by being faithful to one's social calling, is it possible to be true to the example of Christ. The later Ritschlians substituted the phrase "the brotherhood of man" for the kingdom of God." The current theologies of revolution and liberation which see the kingdom of promise ushered in by revolutionary struggle and warfare reflect a secularizing of the Gospel call to holiness.97
Finally, we must warn against the technological morality which is manifest in the human potential and pastoral psychology movements. When the religious or moral life is based on the techniques of psychology and related social sciences rather than the authority of Scripture
and the spiritual wisdom of the church tradition, group dynamics becomes a surrogate for the koinonia, and counseling takes the place of confession. The goal in life is now self-fulfillment and personal integration rather than the great commission. The seeds of this current focus on the quest of the self for wholeness and health are to be found in Pietism and Puritanism, where the keeping of spiritual diaries was encouraged to lay bare the soul's struggle for holiness. It is ultimately rooted in the Eros piety of Hellenistic philosophy and religion.
The values of the technological society have even penetrated the bastions of conservative evangelicalism, where some of its spokesmen are now advocating a technology of the spirit to inculcate Christian virtues in man by human conditioning.98 In some Lay Witness missions people use spiritual growth charts to gauge their spiritual progress empirically. Fasting and tithing are sometimes portrayed as tried and true methods for insuring physical and spiritual well-being. The clinical psychologist Millard Sall, who identifies himself as evangelical, argues that the reward of faith is "maturity and enrishment," that the right use of the Bible and psychotherapy can bring people "the highest satisfaction and enjoyment possible."99
This technological morality is also glaringly apparent in the school of Positive Thinking and the neo-transcendentalist movement (Christian Science Unity, New Thought), which depict health and prosperity as the inevitable concomitants of right thought and action. In this orientation prayer is reduced to a method of attaining personal satisfaction and social success.
One danger in this new form of culture-religion is that holiness becomes a result of technique and therefore something within man's power. Another peril is that santity is confused with sanity, holiness with healthfulness. Emotional stability is valued more highly than the zeal and madness of faith. The aim is to be absolved from bad feelings, not to repent of sins. Philip Rieff scores the ethical stance of modern psychotherapy, including that which has a Christian guise: "A man can be made healthier without being made better -- rather, morally worse. Not the good life but better living is the therapeutic standard."100
Evangelical Christianity stands in diametrical opposition to the technological morality by its insistence that holiness is a product of God's supernatural grace and not of human technique. It is election by grace, not the rational discovery and application of spiritual laws, that places one in the kingdom of the redeemed. Biblical faith does not deny the place for spiritual disciplines but stresses that these have no value apart from the secret inward work of the Holy Spirit, and they are
designed to bring our actions into conformity not with the canons of scientific rationality but with the will of God, which is perceptible only to the eyes of faith. Moreover, the goal of the Christian life is seen not as personal integration or wholeness nor as the realization of human potential but rather as the sacrifice of the self to the cause of the kingdom and the glory of God. Jesus Christ, the pattern for Christian living, had neither a long life nor a tranquil one. He was accused of insanity because of his fervency and boldness in faith (JOhn 10:20). Yet in emptying himself and giving himself for the welfare of his fellow human beings, he exemplified that perfect wholeness which is at the same time perfect holiness, for he was integrated not iwth the standards of the world but with the will of the living God, the ground and goal of all human existence.
1. I agree with J. Sidlow Baxter in his criticism of the Victorious Life and Higher Life movements in which sanctification is generally depicted as wholly the work of Jesus Christ within and not also the work of the believer empowered by Christ. It seems that in those movements we do not ourselves battle against temptation but let Christ dispose of it while we stand by as onlookers. See J. Sidlow Baxter, A New Call to Holiness (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975).
2. Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. 2, trans. Neil Buchanan (New York: Russell & Russell, 1958), p. 228.
3. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 14, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1958), p. 93.
4. Luther, Luther: Lectures on Romans Ed. &Trans. Wm. Pauck, p. 127.
5. Ibid., p. 189
6. Martin Luther, W.A. 37, 357.
7. Luther's Works, vol. 27, p. 87
8. Luther generally saw justification and regeneration as correlative, whereas Melanchton was inclined to regard regeneration as following upon justification. The latter view renders faith purely cognitive rather than regenerative and creative as well.
9. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 16, 2 ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), p. 800.
10. Institutes I, 2, 1 ed. McNeill., p. 41.
11. Cf. Calvin: "Christ, through whom we have returned to favor with God, is set before us as a model, the image which we should express in our own lives." Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera 1, 1125.
12. Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera 45, 481.
13. Calvin, Institutes II, 16, 7, ed. McNeill, p. 512.
14. Calvin, Institutes III, 3, 9, ed. McNeill, p. 601.
15. See Kenneth Ronald Davis, Anabaptists and Asceticism (Scottdale, Pa.: Heral Press, 1974).
16. Jonathan Edwards, Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. In Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith, Vol. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 387.
17. See Norman Pettit, The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966).
18. Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, ed. and trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964), p. 95.
19. Walter Marshall, The Gospel-Mystery of Sanctification (London: Oliphants Ltd., 1954), p. 99.
20. In Marie E. Richard, Philip Jacob Spener and His Work (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1897), p. 46.
21. Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century heir of Pietism and Puritanism, declared: "If you cannot keep good company and avoid the circle of dissipation, do not profess to be followers of Christ, for He bids you come out from among them and be separate." The Treasury of Charles H. Spurgeon (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1955), pp. 78-79.
22. John Preston, The Saints Qualification (1637). Cited in Irvonwy Morgan, Puritan Spirituality (London: Epworth Press, 1973), p. 118.
23. Albert Outler, ed., John Wesley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 378.
24. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II, 2, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969), p. 576.
25. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R.H. Fuller (London: SCM Press, 1959), p. 79.
26. Ibid., p. 105.
27. Ibid., p. 267.
28. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
29. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 176 ff.
30. Hans Kung, Justification, trans. Thomas Collins, Edmund E. Tolk, and David Granskou (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1964).
31. Edwards, Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, pp. 387-388.
32. For Calvin both justification and sanctification exist in their own right, and neither is to be subordinated to the other. Both are necessary for the Christian life. See Francois Wendel, Calvin, trans. Philip Mairet (London: Collins, 1963), pp. 255-257. To be sure, in his Institutes Calvin deals with regeneration before justification, htough it could be argued that his purpose in doing so was to highlight justification. See the editorial comment in Institutes, III, 3, 1, ed. McNeill, p. 593.
33. Some Reformed theologians, such as Kohlbrugge and the early Barth, erred on the other side and emphasized justification to the detriment of sanctification.
34. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. and rev. Ernst Bizer, p. 566.
35. Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 75.
36. Martin Luther, W.A. 57, 102, 15. Cited in Gordon Rupp, The Righteousness of God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1963), p. 200.
37. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 152.
38. Calvin, Institutes, III, 2, 21, ed. McNeill, p. 567.
39. John Wesley's Forty-Four Sermons, 12th ed. (London: Epworth Press, 1975), p. 475.
40. In the Swedish Pietist Paul Peter Waldenstrom the Lutheran doctrine of forensic justification is called into question, and salvation is said to consist in imparted rather than imputed righteousness. Waldenstrom's teachings were influential in the formation of the Mission Covenant Church in 1878, though the precise relationship between justification and sanctification has been left open in that communion. See Julius Bodensieck, ed., The Encyclopaedia of the Lutheran Church, vol. 3 (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1965), pp. 2450-2451.
41. Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henry de Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 270.
42. Thomas Torrance, Kingdom and Church (Fair Lawn, N.J.: Essential Books, 1956), p. 101. "Sanctification is not a response of man that must be added to justification, but the continual renewing and re-enacting in the believer of a justification that is made once and for all."
43. See Regin Prenter, Spiritus Creator, trans. John M. Jensen (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1953), pp. 87, 245.
44. Richard Jensen, Touched by the Spirit (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1975), p. 118.
45. J. Sidlow Baxter rightly reflects that "although human effort is ... powerless in itself to maintain inwrought holiness after the Holy Spirit has wrought the ... miracle within us, yet human cooperation is all the while necessary in resisting encroachments of evil upon the sanctified territory, in cultivating prayerful responsiveness to the Holy Spirit, and in carefully culturing those conditions which are required for a continuing experience of holiness." A New Call to Holiness, p. 142.
46. Jensen would possibly not disagree here, since he appears to mean that sanctification is alien to the being of the natural man. But can we even say this if we affirm that man in his created being is good and not evil? Regeneration does not negate but transforms the being of man.
47. Karl Barth, A Shorter Commentary on Romans, trans. D.H. van Daalen (London: SCM Press, 1959), p. 65.
48. Present Truth, vol. 4, no. 1 (February 1975), p. 48. If pressed, Robert Brinsmead will recognize that the Holy Spirit, as well as the Father and Son, plays a role in our justification, and that we are not effectively justified until the Spirit produces faith within us. I agree with Brinsmead that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ, which is outside ourselves. But we must make contact with this righteousness by faith, which is a subjective work of the Holy Spirit (and which has an experiential side). My position is close to Brinsmead and to Present Truth (now known as Verdict magazine), but by emphasis is not the very same in this area.
49. Our Reformed fathers made a helpful distinction between "active justification,"
which takes place in the tribunal of God (Romans 3:20; Gal. 3:11) and "passive justification," which takes place in the heart or conscience of the believer. See Louis Berkhof, Manual of Reformed Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1933), p. 259.
50. The Works of Bonaventure, IV, trans. Jose de Vinck (Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966), p. 37.
51. Luther's Works, vol. 29, p. 139.
52. Corpus Reformatorum Vol. 79, Calv. Op. 51, 186.
53. John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, trans. Henry J. Van Andel (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), p. 18.
54. Philip Spener, Pia Desideria, p. 80.
55. For a perceptive discussion of regeneration and Christian perfection in Spener and Francke see Dale Brown, Understanding Pieetism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), pp. 95 ff.
56. John Bunyan, Justification by an Imputed Righeousness (Swengel, Pa.: Reiner Publications, 1970), p. 67.
57. J.C. Ryle, Holiness, reprint ed. (London: James Clarke, 1956), p. 39.
58. Quoted in J. Mcleod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement (New York: Macmillan, 1895), p. 124.
59. This reflects Luther's view that, apart from God's merciful judgment, the good works of the Christian can only be counted as "mortal sin."
60. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 37. In Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Bros., 1919), p. 684.
61. Robert Monk argues that regarding the doctrine of Christian perfection Wesley is remarkably similar to the Puritan John Preston, who envisioned a perfection of intention or dedication that nevertheless does not exclude the continuation of human infirmities, which he recognized as sins. This perfection of the "sound heart" is an imperfect perfection, which plresses on toward the ultimate perfection obtained when the taint of sin is taken from man at death. Botho Preston and Wesley conceived a perfection that demanded continual increase in love. Monk does not suggest that Wesley derived his ideas from Preston but rather that this doctrine was present in the Puritan tradition and that Wesley was familiar with its formulation. See Robert C. Monk, John Wesley: His Puritan Heritage (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1966), pp. 113-118.
62. Wesley himself sometimes employed this term, but he regarded it as unwise and finally decided to refrain from using it, since it conflicted with his view that even a person encompassed by the love of God still commits involuntary transgressions.
Those in the Holiness movement who have held to the eradication theory, namely, that sin is extirpated in the second blessing, are more likely to speak of sinless perfection. That branch of the Holiness movement that stresses the counteraction of sin in the second blessing emphasizes victory over sin rather than sinless perfection (e.g., the Keswick Convention).
63. J. Sidlow Baxter, A New Call to Holiness, p. 171.
64. The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, ed. and trans. Alexander Dru (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), p. 413.
65. Ibid., p. 174.
66. Barth, Church Dogmatics, II, 2, p. 770.
67. P.T. Forsyth, God the Holy Father, reprint ed. (London: Independent Press Ltd., 1957), p. 124.
68. John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), p. 526.
69. Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, ed. Philip Watson, p. 505.
70. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 257.
71. Luther's Works, vol. 27, p. 332.
72. That the Christian will sense that he is being used by God as a witness and sign of God's power and holiness is made clear by Paul in II Cor. 1:12. At the same time, the genuine Christian will forever be aware of his unworthiness before God and will forever marvel that God's power is made perfect through weakness (II Cor. 12:9).
73. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 239.
74. Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, p. 36.
75. Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, vol. 2, ed. H.R. Mackintosh and J.S. Stewart. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), p. 517.
76. John Preston, The Doctrine of Self Denial in his Four Godly and Learned Treatises, 3, 3rd ed., (London: T. Cotes, F. M. Sparke, 1633) p. 227. Cf. Richard Sibbes: "It is a dastardly thing for a Christian to be cowardly, because he hath death and hell conqueered, and everything is made serviceable to help him to heaven." In The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart. Vol. III (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), p. 441.
77. Ernst Troesltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, vol. 2, trans. Olive Wyon (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950), p. 589.
78. The Calvinist vision of a new social order is admirably stated in Abraham Kuyper, Christianity and the Class Struggle, trans. Dirk Jellema (Grand Rapids: Piet Hein, 1950).
79. Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, trans. R.A. Wilson and John Bowden, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 231. Moltmann claimsd to be expressing Luther's position on this matter, but, as Bengt Hoffman documents in his Luther and the Mystics (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1976), Luther, in line with the mystical tradition, saw the goal of the incarnation as man's elevation into glory.
80. Hans Kung, On Being a Christian, trans. Edward Quinn (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976), p. 571.
81. Joseph Sittler, The Structure of Christian Ethics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958), p. 64.
82. John Preston, The Fullness of Christ for Us (London: J. Oakes, John Stafford, 1640) p. 22.
83. Friedrich Heiler, Prayer: History and Psychology, ed. and trans. Samuel McComb (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958).
84. The metaphor of the pouring out of the heart to God is clearly set forth in Isaiah 26:16; Lam. 2:19; Psalm 119:145-147; 142:2; and Hebrews 5:7.
85. Moltmann sees God not as a "heavenly person" but as a dynamic "eschatological process." He breaks with monotheism and embraces a Hegelian form of panentheism. See The Crucified God, pp. 247-249.
86. Cited in J. Oswald Sanders, The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 99.
87. H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Bros., 1951), p. 28.
88. Otto Heick, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 232.
89. Cited in Present Truth, vol. 4, no. 1 (February 1975), p. 61.
90. Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, Trans. from 6th ed. Edwyn C. Hoskyns (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 39.
91. Ryle, Holiness, p. xvi.
92. In the theology of Thomas Aquinas we see Christian ethics combined with the ancient ethics of self-fulfillment, with its natural virtues. For Tillich's discussion of eudaemonism in Thomas see Tillich, A History of Christian Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 196-198.
93. Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, p. 69.
94. This orientation can be discerned in the early Barth, but in his maturity he definitely made a place for sanctification as a regenerative process within the believer wh ich reflects and attests his perfect sanctification accomplished in Christ.
95. James D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), pp. 315, 338.
96. Barth, Epistle to the Romans Ed. Hoskyns, p. 103.
97. We see this secularizing process espeically in Gutierrez and Colin Morris. Though Moltmann and Kung seek to maintain a Christian identity in social involvement, it seems that the Christian message is also compromised in their theologies.
98. Dr. Paul W. Clement of the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology advocated such a technology of the spirit at the International Conference on Human Engineering and the Future of Man, at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill. (July 21-23, 1975).
99. Millard Sall, Faith, Psychology, and Christian Maturity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975).
100. Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 58.
IV. The Cruciality of Preaching
Every word of God proves true .... Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
Its Divine Authority
The Cruciality of Preaching
So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. Romans 10:17
I am certain that when I enter the pulpit to preach or stand at the lectern to read, it is not my word, but my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Martin Luther
God ... deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them. John Calvin
With preaching Christianity stands or falls because it is the declaration of a Gospel. Nay, more -- far more -- it is the Gospel prolonging and declaring itself. P.T. Forsyth
Preaching is "God's own Word." That is to say, through the activity of preaching, God himself speaks.1 Karl Barth
He has put His Word in our mouth. He wants it to be spoken through us. If we hinder His Word, the blood of the sinning brother will be upon us. If we carry out His Word, God will save our brother through us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Preaching as a Means of Grace
The cruciality of preaching in the plan of salvation is already very much in evidence in the Old Testament. We read that Moses was appointed by the Lord to confront Pharaoh with the divine summons to release the people of Israel from their slavery: "Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (Exod. 4:12). When Moses hesitated, God chose Aaron as a partner for His unwilling servant with the promise that He would also be with
Aaron's mouth and teach them both what to say and do (Exodus 4:15).
The prophets of Israel definitely saw themselves as the mouthpieces and instruments of the Word of God. They were appointed to proclaim both the grace and the judgment of God. They were messengers of doom but also heralds of glad tidings (Isaiah 40:9; 61:1). They were servants of the Word, not its creator or originator (Jeremiah 25:4, 8). They were sent forth not only with the Word but also with the Spirit, since it is the Spirit who fills their words with meaning and makes their hearers receptive to the divine message (see Isaiah 48:16; 61:1).
Like the prophet Isaiah Jesus perceived his role as a preacher of good news to the poor (Luke 4:18, 43). It was not simply his person but his Word that was the means of salvation to lost sinners: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and belileves him who sent me, has eternal life" (John 5:24; cf. 6:63). Moreover, he commissioned his disciples to be heralds of the Word (cf. Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; Luke 10:1-2). That the words of his disciples in the event of preaching are indeed the very Word of God is evident in this remark of our Lord: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me ..." (Luke 10:16; cf. Mark 13:11).
The sacramental nature of preaching is further attested in the writings of the apostle Paul. It was Paul's deep-felt conviction that the preaching of the Gospel is the divinely-appointed means by which people come to salvation: "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17). And again: "Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21; cf. 15:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:20). Paul believed that the words of the apostles were so united with the Word of God that this Word was truly conveyed through their words. He thanked God constantly, he told the Thessalonians, "that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers" (1 Thess. 2:13). He saw himself as under a divine mandate to preach, and he knew that he would fall under divine judgment if he spurned this injunction: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16).
A similar emphasis is reflected in other epistles of the New Testament. In Titus we read that "at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savioiur" (1:3). Peter declared: "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and
abiding word of God ... That word is the good news which was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:23, 25). The Book of Revelation attributes the triumph over the devil not only to the atoning sacrifice of Christ but also to the preaching of the Gospel: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11).
Despite the early synthesis of Christian and Hellenistic values and beliefs, the fourth century witnessed a partial renewal of biblical preaching. John Chrysostom in the East and Augustine in the West were both characterized by a thorough knowledge of the Bible as well as of human nature. Through their oratorical skills and biblical expositions they won many souls to Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Chrysostom, unfortunately, did not always rise above the doctrinal errors of his day in his praise of alms, celilbacy, and monasticism as meritorious works. His view of sin and its remedy also tended to be more moral than evangelical. Augustine often lapsed into allegorical interpretation in his treatment of Scripture, but the truth of the Gospel nonetheless shone through his expository lectures.
In the medieval period the preaching of the Gospel was more and more subordinated to the sacrifice of the Mass, and the visual came to be stressed over the aural in the service of worship. Preaching itself was reduced to homilies or exhortations on moral themes; this was especially apparent in Gabriel Biel and other nominalists.
The rise of mysticism further eroded the cruciality of the preaching of Christ in man's salvation. The mystics maintained that God acts without instrumentality and without ideas (Eckhart). Their aim was to ascend beyond the rational to an intuitive apprehension of God in himself. Preaching was simply an external aid by which one was drawn to focus attention on the suprarational and suprahistorical. In the New Testament church the content of preaching was Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. In the preaching of Meister Eckhart there was little about the events of salvation-history but much about the birth of Christ in the soul.
At the same time, the evangelical strand asserted itself ever again in Roman Catholic spirituality. Augustine (as we have seen) and Bernard of Clairvaux were noted for their expository preaching. Thomas Aquinas gave evangelism priority even over contemplation. In his judgment "the highest place in religious orders is held by those which are directed to teaching and preaching ... For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate."2 The early Dominicans preached from Holy Scripture. Avoiding the homiletic
form as too dull, they sought by their preaching to win souls for Christ. Perhaps the most renowned was Savonarola, in whose piety an evangelical strand can be detected.3 Another eminent Dominican preacher, Vincent Ferrer, who was instrumental in winning many Jews and Moslems to Christ, had a profound awareness of the sacramental character of Gospel preaching: "When a preacher preaches the Word of God and is not concerned with poets ... or how to flatter the listeners with sonorous phrases ... but preaches only the Word revealed by God, it is not he who preaches, but the Holy Spirit in him, or Christ Himself."4
Edwin Charles Dargan offers this somewhat critical appraisal of preaching in the later middle ages:
Though there was much and very eeffective preaching ... and though it attracted great multitudes of hearers, yet in quality and character it did not escape the faults inherited from the long ages of departure from a true Biblical standard ... The use of Scripture was often only sad misues -- it was either neglected wholly or served merely as a pretext for wholly unscriptural or even antiscriptural teachings ... The merit of works, the saving value of ordinances, penances, and the like, were presented, to the detriment of gospel truth and sound Christian morals. The glory of the Virgin, the legends of saints and martyrs crowded, and sometimes crowded out, the history and doctrine of Scripture ... Yet amid all this failure and perversion the main distinctive truths of Christianity were ably and sincerely presented, and by many earnest voices the vaving power of Christ was told, and thousands were brought to his cross. Sin was searchingly analyzed and boldly denounced, and to the ever-present springs of human action appeal was constantly made.5
Contemporary Catholicism is seeking to recover the crucial significance of preaching in the life of the church. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that the sermon should draw its content primarily from Scripture and "its character should be that of a proclamation of God's wonderful works in the history of salvation."6 Pope Paul VI declared that "preaching is the primary apostolate," and this "is above all the ministry of the Word." "No other form of communication can take its place," he asserted, "not even the enormously powerful technical means of press, radio and television."7
With the rediscovery of the full meaning of the Gospel, including the themes of substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace, and justification by faith, the Reformation ushered in a new age of biblical preaching. It can be said that Gospel preaching became a third sacrament in the Reformation, replacing the sacrament of confession and absolution.
Martin Luther, in particular, was noted for his elevation of preaching as the primary means of grace -- even above Scripture:
The Gospel is really not a document, but wishes to be a spoken word, which recites the content of the scripture, just as Christ did not write but only spoke. He did not call his teaching scripture but Gospel, that is, good news or proclamation. That is why it must not be described with the pen but with the mouth.8
According to Luther the Holy Spirit has bound himself to the preaching of the Word as the channel by which he convinces sinners of the truth of the Gospel. Indeed, "there is no other means of attaining faith than by hearing, learning, and pondering the Gospel."9 The preacher is only a mouthpiece of the living Christ himself: "Those who are now proclaiming the gospel are not those who really do it; they are only a mask and a masquerade through which God carries out his work and will. You are not the ones who are catching the fish, God says, I am drawing the net myself."10
Luther maintained that the gospel preacher should convict people of their sins and then comfort them with the promise of redemption through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He should generally include in his message a call to repentance or conversion. The sermon itself should consist of an exposition of a biblical passage and usually should not exceed twenty minutes in length. As he declared, "I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching, for the delight of hearing vanishes therewith and the preachers hurt themselves."11
John Calvin, too, was convinced of the indispensability of Gospel preaching for realizing the promise of redemption: "It is true, that the sinner receives remission by the ministry of the Church; but not without the preaching of the gospel. Now, what is the nature of that preaching? That we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christe."12 For Calvin, as for Lluther, there is genearlly no direct bestowal of grace apart from human instrumentallity: "The word goes out of the mouth of God in such a manner that it likewise goes out of the mouth of men; but God does not speak openly from heaven; but employes men as his instruments."13 In his view preaching is a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord "for both the awakening of faith, and for the building up of the people of God in faith."14
Calvin stressed the decisive role of the Holy Spirit in making the word effectual in the lives of people. In his understanding the Spirit must work not only within the preacher but also within the hearer. There is no benefit from the word of preaching "except when God
shines in us by the light of his Spirit; and thus the inward calling, which alone is efficatious and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men."15 Calvin was emphatic that there is no necessary accompaniment of the word of the sermon by the Spirit: the Spirit acts and speaks as he wills. God is sovereign even in the preaching of his Word, and preaching becomes effectual "where it pleases God by the secret power of his Spirit to work in this manner."16 For Calvin the Spirit can work even apart from the preaching of the church, though preaching is the ordinary or usual means of his working.17
In the developing Protestant orthodoxy an emphasis was placed on the objective reality and efficacy of the Word of God in preaching, though this efficacy was generally tied to the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. It was asserted by the Second Helvetic Confession that "the preaching of the Word of God."18 The preaching of the Gospel has validity despite the moral failings of the preacher: "The Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good."19
The preaching in Protestant orthodoxy frequently took the form of polemics in which the Calvinistic or Lutheran doctrinal position was defended against opposing views. Learned discourses on abstract doctrinal themes where the intellectual acumen of the preacher was displayed were not infrequent. Doctrinal rectitude came to supplant gospel simplicity in many pulpits. This was more true in full-blown scholastic orthodoxy than in early Protestant orthodoxy.
Puritanism and Pietism signaled a reaction against the stultifying worship of orthodox services and the recovery of evangelical gospel preaching. The Puritan preachers were called "spiritual preachers" in contrast to the "witty preachers" of the ecclesiastical establishment.20 They thought of preaching not as reflection upon moral or theological themes but as the confrontation of sinful man with a righteous God. Their emphasis was on simplicity, directness, and sincerity. For John Preston "the Word must be presented in a spiritual manner, plain and unadorned."21 The preacher should not make a pretense of superior virtue or wisdom but instead identify himself with his hearers as only a sinner saved by grace. He should preach "as a dying man to dying men" (Richard Baxter). The dynamic of the preacher's appeal was grounded in his own experience, though the actual experience was rarely mentioned. At the same time, it was vitally important that there be a certain congruence between the preacher's life and message, since
only a person united with Christ in faith and love could preach in the power of the Spirit.
In Puritan preaching there was an urge to evangelism: every sermon should be geared to bringing people to a personal decision of faith. Moreover, the Puritans sought to reach the common man for the Gospel and not just an intellectual or cultural aristocracy. William Perkins, Lecturer at Great St. Andrews Church, Cambridge, used an open-air pulpit to win the ear of the masses. George Whitefield preached on street corners, in church yards, and in open fields.
John Bunyan (d. 1688) saw the preaching of the Gospel as such a momentous event that he approached it with great trepidation. "Though trembling," he wrote, "I used my gift to preach the blessed gospel, in proportion to my faith, as God had showed me in the holy Word of truth."22 The goal of preaching is not to share information about God or the Christian religion but to bring sinners to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ: "In all my preaching ... my heart has earnestly cried out to God to make the Word effectual to the salvation of souls."23 Bunyan acknowledged that sometimes he was actually "in real pain, travailing to bring forth children to God."24 He was never satisfied "unless there has been some fruit." Like many other Puritan preachers he recognized that it is not human effort or preparation but the work of the Holy Spirit that makes a sermon effectual for salvation:
Sometimes I have noticed that a word cast in, by the way, has done more than all the rest of the sermon. Sometimes when I thought I had done the least, then it developed that the most has been accomplished; and at other times when I thought I had really gotten hold of them, I found I had fished for nothing.25
Philip Spener, who spent most of his working years in the pastorate and whose sermons sparked a revival in his parish in Frankfurt, exemplifies the stance of German Pietism on worship and preaching. In his view preaching should be directed toward the heart and not merely toward the mind of man. He criticized the continual preaching of the law in Lutheran pulpits and called every preacher above all to announce the good news of salvation. He also condemned the prevailing custom of exhibiting learning in the pulpit as this was reflected, for example, in quotations from foreign languages and concentration on obscure doctrinal points. Nor should the preacher go out of his way to introduce controversy in the pulpit. The hallmark of an evangelical sermon is apostolic simplicity. Spener wanted the Bible to be allowed to speak to the church and thereby be instrumental in the reformation of its life and worship. For this reason he warned against dependence
on the predetermined texts (pericopes) while the reat of the Scriptures remained largely untouched.
Spener urged those who preach the Gospel to bear in mind that they speak not the words of men but the power of God. They should take care not to mingle with the preaching of the Word of God any thoughts of their own. At the same time they must give diligent and reverent preparation to their sermons, for to preach simply and profoundly requires much study. Only in this way can they make sure that what they preach is the Word of God and not the word of man.
If the Gospel is the Gospel of Christ, we are thereby admonished, that as the preacher should desire to preach nothing else so the hearers should desire to hear nothing else; not human triflilng and merry tales to produce laughter in the church; not deep speculation which none of the hearers can understand ... not the histories or empty services of the saints ... nor yet mere morality; for although it is proper that morality should be impressed upon the Church, it is not its first and immediate aim, but is to be awaited as a result, not looked to as a means.26
In the modern period Friedrich Schleiermacher is of special interest, since he illustrates the profound change that preaching underwent in neo-Protestantism. For him proclaiming God meant testifying to the reality of one's own experience of God. The tenets of the Christian faith are only derivatives of the inner state of man. The Word is of secondary importance, fo rthe divine is ineffable. What is of primary importance is not doctrinal fidelity but the cultivation of piety or religiousness. In his sermons Schleiermacher did appeal to the Bible, but his aim was not to confront his hearers with the judgment and grace of a holy God but to awaken the God-consciousness within all people and to encourage moral effort. What happens in the service of worship is not the proclamation of the mighty acts of God but the communication of one's awareness of the divine Spirit in human life.27 He never preached from the Old Testament, since he regarded its portrayal of God as pre-Christian. Schleiermacher reflects the subjectivistic slant in Christian mysticism and Pietism. The dialectic that was maintained in early Pietism between the Word of God in Scripture and the human response in faith and obedience was sundered in his emphasis on religious experience.
P.T. Forsyth, on the contrary, remained true to the dominant evangelical strand in the tradition of Pietism. In his view preaching should be centered on the power of the cross of Christ to redeem fallen mankind. Jesus should be presented as the Savior and Lord of the world
and not as elder brother or exemplar of a higher religious consciousness. Forsyth lamented the fact that modern preaching lacks the note and energy "of spiritual profundity and poignancy as distinct from spiritual sympathy, and of moral majesty as distinct from ethical interest."28 Such is "ultimately due to the loss of conviction as to a real, objective, and finished redemption, and to the disappearance from current faith of a real relation to the holiness and the wrath of God."29 He regarded with special disfavor "subjective, psychological preaching," which is "weak," "exhausting," and "dangerous."30 "Analyse the Gospel in reference to the soul," he recommended. "You are a minister of the Word, not of the soul."31 Forsyth called for a return to biblical evangelical preaching in which the content of the sermon would be derived from the Scriptural witness, not from one's own religious experience. Too often, he observed, the preacher reads his own message into the Bible instead of reading God's message out of the Bible.
In more recent years Karl Barth has sought to lay the foundation for a recovery of biblical, evangelical preaching, though he diverges at certain points quite markedly from the tradition of the evangelical revival. Barth speaks of both the impossibility and the necessity of preaching God's Word.32 The task is impossible because the finite cannot bear or carry the infinite (finitum non capax infiniti), but it is necessary because the very existence of the church depneds upon the preaching and hearing of the Word. Barth contends that through our feeble and broken witness God acts and speaks. He does not speak so much in our words as with our words so that in the event of preaching people hear the veritable Word of God. Preaching, like the sacraments, is more properly a sign or testimony of grace than a means of grace, for it witnesses to the grace poured out for all people in Jesus Christ. At the same time it can certainly be regarded as a means to the knowledge of grace and thus, in this secondary sense, a means of grace, since through preaching the Spirit of God grants us knowledge of what God has done for us in Christ. And this knowledge is not simply cognitive but also regenerative in that it affects the being as well as the intellect of man.
The content of our preaching, says Barth, should be the announcement of God's grace and judgment which has taken place on behalf of all humankind in Jesus Christ -- in his incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:19) is the pivotal text in Barth's theology. According to him this means that the world is already reconciled to God in that Jesus Christ, Representative Man and Revealing God, by virtue of his sacrifice of
obedience dispels the enmity between God and man. His confession of sin on behalf of man signifies and ratifies man's acknowledgment of and gratefulness for God's forgiveness. Yet though the world is reconciled to God, it is not yet redeemed because mankind has not yet been awakened to the truth and significance of God's reconciling work in Christ.
In our preaching, Barth contends, we do not offer people salvation but proclaim a finished work of salvation. Through the word that is proclaimed the congregation receives a practical awareness of a salvation that is already theirs. We do not call our hearers to decision but remind them of God's decision on their behalf actualized in Jesus Christ. This is not to deny that the Spirit of God may reach out through our preaching and effectuate a conversion of life in our hearers, but we ourselves cannot do this or even hope to do this by preaching. Our responsibility is to make known the conversion of all humankind to God that has already taken place in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God will in his own way and time enable people to enjoy the benefits of this conversion, but it is not the task of the church. This means that we approach unbelievers not as sinners but as virtual brothers, since they, too, stand within the sphere of grace and redemption, though as yet they do not know it. The preacher is therefore a herald of good news but not a winner of souls, an ambassador of Christ but not an agent of his ongoing work of salvation. Christ alone is the Savior of souls, and his work of salvation has already been effected and completed in his sacrificial life and death. Nor should the preacher warn of the terrors of God's judgment because these terrors have already been borne by Jesus Christ on behalf of all humanity. It is "necessary to speak of human sin and error, but only in order to show that sin is annihilated and error destroyed."33
Our difficulty with Barth at this point is that he tends to see preaching not as an instrument or agency of salvation but only as a testimony to a salvation already completed. Salvation was realized in the faith of Jesus Christ, he says, and our own faith is simply an acknowledgement of this great salvation. Perhaps our difference with Barth lies in emphasis rather than substance, since he, too, insists that what has already been accomplished must be apprehended and appropriated by sinful man in the here and now. Yet in his depiction of the cross of Christ as the reconciliation of all mankind to God, he diverges from the biblical and Reformation witness that this reconciliation has validity and reality only for faith and that the world of unbelief continues to stand under the wrath and judgment of God. Preaching, therefore, is
not only a witness to reconcililation but a means of reconciliation. Barth can be appreciated for his reminder that God's reconciling grace and love extend to all, that the atoning work of Christ is done on behalf of all, that justification and sanctification are intended for all. But what has been accomplished on behalf of all mankind de jure does not become a concrete reality for us until we receive and surrender to the risen living Christ who confronts us in the word of the sermon. And this surrender is not only an acknowledgement of a salvation accomplished for us but also a decision for a salvation that is applied to us and enacted in us.34
Although noticeably influenced by Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer retained the Lutheran doctrine that the finite can bear the infinite (finitum capax infiniti) and therefore saw the preacher not simply as a witness to Christ but as Christ to his neighbor through the word that he speaks. As Bonhoeffer's biographer put it: "The word of the sermon has, and is, the presence of Christ."35 The sermon has not an accidental but an organic and integral relationship to the Word of the living Christ. "Nothing", Bonhoeffer insisted, "is more concrete than the real voice of Christ speaking in the sermon."36 He did, of course, also acknowledge the concrete presence of the Word in Scripture and the sacraments, but thought it essentially and primarily noticeable in the preached Word. His position is made unmistakably clear: "He has put His Word in our mouth. He wants it to be spoken through us. If we hinder His Word, the blood of the sinning brother will be upon us. If we carry out His Word, God will save our brother through us."37 Bonhoeffer rightly perceived the urgency in the preaching of the Gospel. People are dying in their sins and need to be told the good news that a Savior has come to them and is ready to receive them. "Time is precious, and multitudes are still waiting for the message of the gospel. ... To tell men that the cause is urgent, and that the kingdom of God is at hand is the most charitable and merciful act we can perform, the most joyous news we can bring."38
This does not mean that the Word of salvation should be proclaimed indiscriminately. In his Letters and Papers from Prison Bonhoeffer maintained that there is a time to speak but also a time to remain silent.39 The church should remain silent when it has so falsified its message that it is compromised before the world. It should also be silent when its message becomes a facilitator of sociological conformity or when its message is a plea for its own existence. He believed that the secularization of the faith made it supremely difficult to proclaim the Word of faith in its purity and power and that therefore the church
should seek to witness simply by Christian presence, vicarious identification with the poor and despised of the world. He envisioned a period of silence and struggle, but in the end it would once again be the proclaimed Word that would renew the church. When the Word is proclaimed again in power, however, it will be a dereligionized Word, a Word liberated from its captivity to a religio-cultural tradition of the past. It will be a Word expressed not in the archaic language of Zion, an unnecessary stumbling block to the man come of age, but in a new language capable of being understood and assimilatetd by secularized man.
While appreciating many of Bonhoeffer's insightful observations and recommendations, we nonetheless have certain reservations. His view that there are periods when the church should refrain from direct proclamation of the Gospel message has some merit, particularly when this message is compromised in the inner circles of faith itself. At the same time it could be argued that this is precisely the time when the message needs to be uttered by those who have been granted spiritual and theological discernment. In those situations where people refuse to hear or where the hearers of the message are already acquainted with it but have spuned it, there is no merit in direct proclamation, and the ambassador of Christ should then either remain in an underground role or go on to other fields where people may be more receptive (Luke 9:5; Matthew 7:6; Acts 16:6). We can think of some theological seminaries and church colleges that have lost their first love and where the message in its authentic purity and power would be resisted or even ridiculed. Here it is better to remain silent as far as public proclamation is concerned, though one must never give up personal witnessing among his fellow human beings, and this would certainly include the classroom. The point is that even in the most hopeless situations we should look for some opportunity to speak about Christ, and while one must keep silent on occasion, one should never remain silent on principle. Bonhoeffer seems to imply that in this present postwar period we must not go beyond the Word (as in mysticism) but prepare ourselves to hear the Word when God speaks it again in all its truth and power. We believe that God is speaking now, though only those with the eyes and ears of faith can hear and understand. But it is incumbent on those who hear to declare it to others.
We also have questions about Bonhoeffer's insistence on speaking the Word in a new language of a nonconfessional and nonreligious character. We agree with Barth that there can be no substitute for the
language of Zion or Canaan, the language of the Bible. To be sure, we must utilize new imagery in clarifying and illuminating biblical concepts, but we can never abandon the uniquely inspired language of Canaan. Nor can we ever lightly forego the confessional language of the church tradition. Paul Tillich, who has tried to translate the biblical concepts into modern parlance, has acknowledged that none of the new expressions can ever contain the richness and depth of meaning that are included in such original words of the religious tradition as "grace" and "sin."40 Bonhoeffer's plea for a new language is not made in the interest of apologetics (as is the case with Bultmann and Tillich) but rather with the intention of clarifying the meaning of the kerygma, which will forever be a stumbling block and folly to the cultured despisers of religion. Like Barth, Bonhoeffer accepts the Anselmian methodology of faith seeking understanding as opposed to the understanding preparing the way for faith (as in Thomas Aquinas). He rightly sees that faith is free to employ new thought-forms and imagery to illumine its object, the Word of God, but he goes too far when he suggests that the religious language of the Bible and the church tradition is thereby superseded.
Preaching the Whole Counsel of God
It is imperative that in our preaching we proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and this includes the Law of God as well as the Gospel, sin as well as salvation, hell as well as heaven. We should go on to add obedience as well as faith, though not as the condition for salvation but as a practical demonstration of our salvation.
The idea is prevalent in neo-Protestantism as well as neo-Catholicism that the purpose of preaching is not to convict people of sin but simply to assure them of divine forgiveness and acceptance. It is said that everyone is accepted irrespective of belilef, conduct, or character. Insofar as God's grace comes to us while we are still in our sins, this is a true statement, but it neglects the complementary truth that though God accepts us as we are, he does not continue to accept us if we remain as we are. He pronounces uf righteous for the purpose of making us righteous. He transfers us from the dominion of darkness to that of light (Col. 1:13) so that we might walk in the light. And if we do not earnestly pursue his righteousness, he will spew us out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16).
The Gospel is not only an announcement of unfathomable grace but
an invitation to surrender in faith and repentance. It also includes a call to ethical obedience. Barth's emphasis has been on the first, while the Pietist concern has been with the second and third. All these facets are evident in Isaiah 44:22: "I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you" (cf. Isaiah 45:22).
It is interesting to compare Barth and Edwards in this area. Barth believes that the preaching of the Gospel "does not imply that the hearer is called to make a decision. A decision, if it is made, is a matter between the individual and God alone and is not a necessary element in preaching."41 We should call upon our hearers to acknowledge the salvation that has already been procured for them by Christ and then to live as liberated people. We do not ask them, however, to accept the offer of salvation so that they might be truly saved. Jonathan Edwards, on the other hand, contends that because of the moral inability of the natural man, he is unable to make a bona fide decision for Christ. We should therefore call upon him to seek for salvation, since he can do this through his own power, though not without the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Our position is that through the preaching of the Gospel a new freedom is given which enables the person in sin to repent and cleave to the grace and mercy of Christ. The hearer can make a decision for Christ, though not on the basis of his own power or wisdom. The Holy Spirit is poured ouot on all who hear the good news of what God has done for us in Christ, but the Spirit can be quenched and grieved by those who taste of His power and then reject the Gospel (cf. Matthew 13:5-7). Those who hear the Gospel and refuse to heed its call damn themselves, for they had the opportunity but squandered it. If they accept, of course, the credit goes to the grace of God, since it was the Spirit who enabled them to accept. On the other hand, if they refuse, the blame is on them, since their hardness of heart did not allow the Spirit to have full sway in their lives. Therefore, the Gospel is to one a "savour of death unto death" but to another a "savour of life unto life" (2 Cor. 2:16 KJ).
We must preach not only the good news of God's mercy and love but also the bad news of his wrath and judgment on sin. Apart from the preaching of God's holiness and wrath his love is misunderstood as a sentimental love that only soothes instead of the holy love that purifies and redeems. The Gospel apart from the Law becomes a pill that tranquilizes, not a medicine that stings but also heals. The goal of preaching is indeed to make known "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8),
but this is only possible when our sins have been exposed by the searchlight of his law.
Norval Geldenhuys expresses our own attitude on this matter:
This preaching of repentance must always be an inherent element in the Gospel-preaching of the church. Firstly, the sinfulness of sin should be pointed out, as well as God's wrath against it, followed by the inexorable demand for true repentance, and then there should be a summons to have faith in Jesus, the Savior. Without the preaching of the need for repentance the message of the church would degenerate into sentiment.42
To preach Christ's love and to be silent regarding his holiness and wrath is to misconstrue him as a divine Helper rather than a mighty Savior. His cross is wrongly understood as only a symbol of creative love rather than an atonement for sin. We would do well to heed these perceptive remarks of John Wesley: "To preach Christ, is to preach what He haas revealed, either in the Old or New Testament; so that you are then as really preaching Christ, when you are saying, 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God,' as when you are saying, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!' "43
When we urge the preaching of the Law of God as well as the Gospel we mean the Law not only as a mirror of man in his sin (its first use) but also the Law as a guide to the Christian life (its third use). Consequently, the preaching of the whole counsel of God entails ethical instruction and admonition as well as the exposure of sin and the offer of salvation. To preach the Law only as a guide for Christian living, however, is to fall into the abyss of moralism, since we then lose sight of the biblical truth that the Law condemns even those who aspire to righteous living and that man's only hope is the free grace of God revealed and enacted in Jesus Christ.
We should also bear in mind that when we warn of God's coming judgment in our preaching of the Law and Gospel, we must never ignore the complementary truth that God is also gracious and that his mercy is everlasting. Nor should the person in sin be depicted as only a despicable worm or spider (as in Edwards' preaching), but he should be told that he is created in the image of God and that he stands under the sign of God's gracious election and infinite compassion. Francis Schaeffer reminds us that man is not nothing but something; indeed, he is a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), and this is why God's love pursues him. Luther advised: "Sinners should not be upbraided in such a way that they are only wounded and driven to despair; but they
should be cherished again, so that they are encouraged to be obedient. But this will happen if they are never reproved without mixingi in some praise of them."44
When we preach about sin in the light of God's law, we should not remain with sin in the abstract but also include a condemnation of specific sins. We are thinking of social sins as well as individual sins, for only in this way does our preaching become prophetic. We must indeed censure the more obvious sins of adultery, stealing, murder, alcoholism, and drug addition, but we must go on to bring under the scrutiny of God's judgment the social maladies of air and water pollution, nuclear and germ warfare, indiscriminate abortion, racial and sex discrimination, and the exploitation of the poor by slum landlords and ruthless business concerns. Karl Barth is right that all sermons will have political overtones, though we should not preach politics as such. The bane of so much conservataive evangelical preaching today is that sin in its social and political dimensions is scarcely touched upon, while personal transgressions of the moral code of the culture are sometimes given undue attention. This, of course, is simply another kind of capitulation to the culture, since law-abiding and respectable citizens are left secure in their sins, while only the weak are condemned.45
Evangelicals profess to accept the whole of Scripture and criticize liberals for accepting only what is congenial in Scripture. John Warwick Montgomery scores evangelicals for their lack of consistency: "But why don't we follow our own advice? The liberals use the visible scissors and paste of destructive biblical criticism while we employ the invisible scissors and paste of selective hermeneutics: we preach only those texts that do not make us socially uncomfortable."46
To preach the whole counsel of God means to apply the Gospel and Law to the whole of life. The preaching that concentrates solely on the concern for personal salvation is termed by Berkouwer a "salvation-egotism." It can also be described as a simple Gospel reductionism, which was already attacked by Wesley, since it neglected the call to social as well as personal holiness. To preach only sin and salvation is also to ignore the truth that the Gospel answers not only the problem of sin and guilt but also the problem of meaninglessness, which is particularly acute in our time.
The task of the church is to afflict the comfortable by the preaching of the Law and to comfort the afflicted by the preaching of the Gospel. The comfortable are not really afflicted unless the Law is directed to them personally, not only to their individual transgressions but also to their complicity in social and political sin. Yet the word of condemnation
must never be the last word in the sermon. Every sermon that claims to be biblical should contain the message of salvation, the glad tidings that a Mediator has identified himself with us and intercedes for us. Every sermon should be a heralding of the good news of God's grace revealed in Jesus Christ, for otherwise the person in sin is left in disillusionment and despair. Indeed, unless his sins are exposed in the light of God's grace and love as well as God's law, man will never really know himself as a sinner in need of redemption. The Law by itself can provoke feelings of guilt, but only the Law in conjunction with the Gospel can produce conviction of sin as well as the hope of redemption.
In our proclamation of God's law against sin we as preachers must not exempt ourselves from the judgment of this law, as Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us: "A preacher is the mediator of God's judgment and also of his mercy. He may claim to preach with great courage; but he also must recognize how he is himself involved in the sins against which he is preaching. Mercy, humility, and charity must come out of this recognition."47
Finally, the afflicted should not only be comforted but they should also be challenged to decision and obedience. They should not only be given the promise of the Gospel but also the imperative of the Gospel (the Law in its third use). We should make clear that salvation is assured not only by the work of Christ but also by the decision of faith made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Salvation turns into damnation if it is spurned and rejected (cf. Hebrews 12:25). But it becomes the wellspring of peace and joy, the balm of Gilead, when it is accepted and appropriated in repentance and faith.
Reformed worship is centered about the preaching and hearing of the Word of God. We are here using the word Reformed in its widest sense to include the whole of evangelical Protestantism, the hallmark of which is the appeal to the authority of the Bible over the church tradition and mystical experience. This kind of spirituality was most clearly identifiable in the Reformation and in early Calvinism and Puritanism. Reformed motifs were rediscovered in the neo-orthodoxy associated with Barth, Brunner, the Niebuhrs, and Bonhoeffer. One can even speak of a Reformed Catholicism (in the style of Kung and Kilian McDonnell). Reformed theology sees the church under the Word and not as the master of the Word or even its guardian. Bonhoeffer
cogently expresses the relationship between Word and church from a biblical perspective:
The Word of God ... enters the Church by its own self-initiated movement. It is wrong to suppose that there is so to speak a Word on the one hand and a Church on the other, and that it is the task of the preacher to take that Word into his hands and move it so as to bring it into the Church and apply it to the Church's needs. On the contrary, the Word moves of its own accord, and all the preacher has to do is to assist that movement and try to put no obstacles in its path.48
It is not the visual but the aural that is given paramount attention in Reformed worship. For Barth, " 'liturgy' means the proclamation of the mighy acts of God by which the congregation is established and in the celebration of which it permits itself to be established anew, again and again."49 "In the sermon," says Heiko Oberman, "the Word of God meets the faithful with authority. There the apocalyptic event takes place wherein the real dimensions of the created world are revealed."50 Bultmann here speaks for Calvinists as well as Lutherans: "It is not the consecration of the priest but the proclaimed word which makes holy the house of God."51 According to Bultmann it is the Greeks and not the Hebrews who stressed sight over hearing. To see God is to make an object of him and so "to be able to stand upright in his presence."52 On the other hand, "hearing is a sense of being encountered, of the distance being bridged, the acknowledgment of a speaker's claim on us."
At the same time we should bear in mind that preaching is not the whole of worship. Forsyth rightly observes: "Preaching is the Church's supreme appeal to the world, but it has lost power because it has been made the chief or only function of the Church, which is really to worship. Preaching is a form of worship, worship is not a form of preaching."53 For Calvin the culmination of the worship service is intercessory prayer, not the sermon. Both Luther and Calvin regarded the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist as the high point of a service of worship, whough this is always the sacrament in the context of the Word. Moreover, only the Word is necessary for corporate worship.54 The Pietists saw free prayer, the singing of hymns, and testimonies as also significant and highly beneficial in the service of worship.
In modern evangelicalism preaching has come to preempt worship to such an extent that the personality and gifts of the preacher are deemed more important than the praise and adoration of God. Robert Webber voices this complaint: "Part of the problem is that we have made our churches into centers of evangelism and instruction.
The focus of our services is on man and his needs instead of God and His glory."55
We need to recall that it is not only the preached Word but also the celebration of the sacraments that creates and sustains the fellowship of Christ. Bonhoeffer remarks: "The word of preaching is insufficient to make us members of Christ's Body; the sacraments also have to be added. Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lord's Supper fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion ... in that Body."56 Forsyth advises: "Our idolatry of the popular preacher needs to be balanced by more stress on the Sacraments. There the common gift comes out, the administrant fades away."57 The sacraments were ordained by Jesus Christ as channels and bearers of his Word. They are described by Emil Brunner as "the divinely given flying buttresses which save the Church from collapse."58
The sacraments are the visible Word or the visible form of the Word. Yet this very manner of speaking points to the fact that there can be no sacrament apart from the proclaimed and read word of Scripture. The sacrament is a supplement to the Word but not a substitute for it. While the sacraments are supremely helpful in the application of the fruits of our salvation, the Word alone is indispensable for salvation. There is no fullness of the Church without the sacraments, but there can be true fellowships of believers apart from the sacraments.
Catholic theology has traditionally emphasized the Mass over the sermon as the focal point of the service, but evangelical voices in that communioin have continued to make themselves heard. Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) recommended: "If thou canst do only one of these two things, hear the Mass, or hear a sermon, thou shouldst rather leave the Mass than the preaching."59 Bernard of Clairvaux averred, "It is not the absence but the contempt of the sacrament that damns."60 Augustine stoutly affirmed that the celebration of the Eucharist should always be accompanied by the preaching of the Word. In our day Kilian McDonnell is one who regards the preaching of the Gospel as primary, though he sees the Eucharistic celebration as part of that proclamation.61 Hans Kung maintains that in the Lord's Supper Christ becomes present not through the ritual or elements but through the word that is preached. As he puts it, "The word here has not primarily the function of consecrating and transforming, but of proclaiming and testifying."62
Both the mainline Reformers had a high view of the sacraments, but they also insisted on the priority of the proclaimed Word. Luther asserted: "For the word can exist without the sacrament, but the sacrament
cannot exist without the word. And in case of necessity, a man can be saved without the sacrament, but not without the word; this is true of those who desire baptism but die before they can receive it."63
Calvin was adamant that Christ is really present by his Spirit in the sacraments which he ordained. Yet they must never preempt the place of the Gospel: "I do not, indeed, deny that the grace of Christ is applied to us in the sacraments, and that our reconciliation with God is then confirmed in our consciences; but, as the testimony of the Gospel is engraven upon the sacraments, they are not to be judged of separately by themselves, but must be taken in connection with the Gospel, of which they are appendages."64 For sacraments "to beget faith," they must be united with the preaching of the Gospel.65
Despite his sacramental bent Beonhoeffer nevertheless looked with reserve on the liturgical movement which sought to restore litanies, the weekly Eucharist, pericopes, and symbols. "With cultic endeavors," he warned, "we are in danger of wanting to add something to the preached word, of attempting to lend a particular style of expression to it. But it may not be and does not need to be so undergirded."66
A similar distrust of the liturgical movement is reflected in Reformed theologian Hans-Joachin Kraus: "Orders of worship are good and necessary, but more and more their liturgical formalism solidifies a ritualistic procedure in which only one person presides -- the priestlike pastor .... Where the authority of preaching declines, the attempts to make worship liturgical and formal increase."67 Kraus advocates a rediscovery of charismatic gifts in trying to break through liturgical ossification, but (at least in this particular discussion) he makes no attempt to relate thses to the sacraments.
In our reservations concerning formalistic and sacramental worship, we must not deny the sacraments their rightful place. The Word and the sacrament are complementary, even though the second is more or less dependent on the first. The Word needs the sacrament in order to become concrete in the life of the congregation. The sacrament needs the Word in order to give meaning and direction to the congregation. On the road to Emmaus the two men who accompanied Jesus heard his message and also broke bread with him. Their eyes were opened to his identity in the breaking of the bread, but previous to that their hearts burned within them while he talked with them on the road and opened to them the Scriptures (Luke 24:30-32). Their conversion was not fulfilled until the time of their sacramental eating.
In his controversy with his Catholic and sectarian opponents Luther was compelled to place perhaps undue emphasis on the Word. He could
even say: "Where God's Word is not preached, it were better if people did not sing, read, or assemble at all."68 The sacrament should generally not be celebrated apart from the proclaimed word, but certainly people can join together in fellowship singing, Bible study, and prayer apart from any formal preaching. Preaching is indispensable for complete worship, but only prayer (in sung or spoken words) is absolultely essential for worship itself.
A sanctuary in a truly Reformed church will be based on the principle of the congregation gathered to hear and adore the Word of God. A divided chancel is not true to the peculiar emphases of either Luther or Calvin, though its demise was effected only in Reformed Christendom. The early Calvinists and Puritans believed that the preached Word should never be separated from the Word read from Scripture. Instead, the sermon should never be separated from the Word read from Scripture. Instead, the sermon should be an exposition of what has been previously read. In a Reformed church the pulpit will be in a prominent position not remote from the people; ideally it will be in the center and slightly raised. Below the pulpit facing the congregation will be the communion table (or table altar).69 This arrangement points to the biblical and Reformed truth that the sacrament is dependent on the Word for its reallity and efficacy.
The blessed sacrament should be celebrated frequently, but not too frequently, since sacramental participation in the mystery of Christ's passion and death must be preceded by self-examination and confession of sins. There is also the danger of the sacrament becoming too commonplace if it is celebrated too often.70 The sacrament must not be reduced to a fellowship or agape meal, for it signifies a real participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16). Here people are confronted by the living Christ, who makes himself present in a way even more intimate and awe-inspiring than in the hearing or reading of the Word.
Reformed worship should not be overstructured, thus allowing for the freedom of the Spirit to change and redesign worship. It will generally include, in addition to the preaching and hearing of the Word of God, the reading from the Old Testament as well as the New, prayers of praise and thanksgiving, confession of sins and assurance of pardon, intercessory prayer, and the singing of hymns to the glory of God. For the pastor to face the altar in prayer is decidedly un-Reformed, since this betrays a hidden belief in the localized presence of Christ. (Such a practice is also very bad acoustically.) Choirs, testimonials, and invitationals are not integral to Reformed worship, though they may enhance it on occasion. The stress in Reformed Christianity is on the
congregation praying and singing in unison as well as hearing the Word of God as a corporate body.
Reformed worship will also be characterized by a sense of the numinous. Worship is not a social get-together but a state of being grasped by the holy God. We worship not for the sake of mutual edification but to give glory and honor to God. Yet in addition to the sense of the awesome presence of God, Reformed worship has a certain joyous spontaneity. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, confidence, and joy. Bonhoeffer declares: "The Word of God demands a great deal of reserve and awe, but it demands an even greater confidence and joyfulness in its power and might."71 We would add that the Word of God also creates a sense of expectation, since where God's Word is truly preached and heard, there people are converted, reconciled, and renewed in their faith.
Biblical Versus Cultural Preaching
There is no doubt that cultural preaching has largely supplanted biblical preaching, at least on the American scene, and this holds true in conservative as well as liberal churches. While studying in New York City, Bonhoeffer was dismayed to find that preaching had been "degraded to marginal ecclesiastical observations about events of the day," with "the quoting of edifying instances ... willing descriptions of one's own religious experiences, to which of course no binding character is attributed in practice."72 Daniel Jenkins has labeled American preaching as "anecdotal" and "trivial." At its best such preaching provides an emotional uplift, but very rarely does it result in spiritual rebirth.
There is much preaching, to be sure, that "sticks to the Gospel" outwardly but makes no attempt to relate the Gospel to the concrete situation where people find themselves. Forsyth's advice was to "refuse to bow to the spirit of the age," but "at least to speak the language of that age, and address it from the Cross in the tone of its too familiar sorrow."73
Gospel preaching should be biblical as opposed to sectarian. It should concern itself with the whole counsel of God and not with the party line of the denomination. It should be a faithful exposition of the text and not an unco9nvincing appeal to the text in support of preconceived opinions.74 It should be both evangelical in content and ecumenical in outreach: it should seek to bring the whole world into submission to Christ.
Sectarian preaching is present when an emphasis on predestination makes superfluous a call to conversion or when eternal security is upheld in such a way as to make people secure in their sin. A sectarian gospel is also evident when free grace is preached to the exclusion of the call to holiness. Another kind of imbalance is apparent where sanctification is magnified over justification. It is by no means time-worn formulas that will satisfy the spiritual yearnings of our people but a fresh word from God which judges all human constructs and systems. Our commission is to preach not Calvinism or Lutheranism or Wesleyanism but the biblical Gospel in all its breadth, depth, and power.
At the same time the biblical preacher will not neglect doctrine for religious experience or ethics. He will eschew doctrinal complexities but will try to make clear the doctrinal complexities but will try to make clear the doctrinal distinctives of biblical faith. He will not seek to fathom mysteries unknown but declare mysteries revealed. As Luther put it: "Doctrinal truth should be preached always, openly, without compromise, and never dissembled or concealed."75 Luther was particularly emphatic that preaching should include a defense of salvation by grace and justification by faith alone. "Preaching must faithfully adhere to doctrine," said Barth, "that is, to the Confession of our faith, which is not a summary of the religious ideas drawn from our own inner consciousness but a statement of what we believe and confess because we have received it and have heard the Word of Revelation."76 James Boice rightly urges that we should "preach the great doctrines of Scripture and not withhold them in the mistaken notion that they are too deep or too 'theological' for our people."77 Furthermore, we should also expose all subjective, untrue thought systems in the light of the Word (Bonhoeffer).
An anti-intellectualism pervades modern evangelicalism, which gives preaching an experiential rather than a doctrinal or biblical cast. Calvin contended that "none will ever be a good minister of the Word of God, unless he is first of all a scholar."78 The right preparation for preaching is not only prayer but also study, and study not just of the Bible but of the theology of the Church through the ages. To be sure, we are to preach Christ and not theology, but we are to present the right understanding of Christ, adn this entails theology. Our preaching must be grounded in a personal encounter with the living Christ, but it must be informed by biblical and theological study. We must speak in the power of the Spirit, but we must think theologically if we are truly to preach the biblical Christ. Dogma is not the aim of our preaching, but it is a condition for it (Bonhoeffer).
Again, biblical preaching will carry the ring of authority. According to Emil Brunner, "soundness of doctrine is only one point of view from which the preaching of the Church may be judged; the other is that of sincerity, 'power,' and authority."79 So much preaching today is eclectic rather than exclusivistic; it is characterized by an uncritical openness to the spirit of the age rather than an urgency to bring the good news of redemption to lost sinners. More often than not it takes the form of an edifying discourse on spiriutal or moral themes in contrast to a definitive pronouncement concerning God's act of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself preached with authority (Luke 4:32, 36), and so must his followers through the ages. Kierkegaard's complaint is still valid: "Authority is a specific quality either of an Apostolic calling or of ordination. To preach simply means to use authority; and that is exactly what is completely and utterly forgotten in these times."80 In a similar vein Karl Barth laments: "Is not the very fact that so wretchedly little binding address is heard in the Church accountable for a goodly share of her misery -- is it not perhaps the misery?"81
It should be borne in mind that the authority in preaching should center not on the personality or talents or wisdom of the minister but on the Word. Bonhoeffer warns against a temptation that seems particularly prevalent in current evangelism: "Every cult of personality that emphasizes the distinguished qualities, viertues, and talents of another person, even though these be of an altogether spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community; indeed, it poisons the Christian community."82
Biblical preaching will aslo be kerygmatic rather than apologetic in nature. It will not seek to defend the validity of the claims of the Christian religion but instead herald the good news of reconciliation and redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our task is simply to let down the net (the Gospel), and Christ will bring in the fish (Luke 5:1-10). Christ, said Luther, "should and must be preached in such a way that, in both you and me, faith grows out of and is received from, the preaching. And that faith is received and grows when I am told why Christ came, how men can use and enjoy Him, and what He has brought and given me."83 We do not need to prove Scripture but to expound Scripture in the light of its goal and content -- the cross of Christ. We are not called to discover a point of contact with our hearers, since the Word of God creates its own response. God sends forth his Word, and it does not return to him void (Isaiah 55:11). Neither should we seek to correlate the Gospel message with the questions of our hearers (as Tillich and Brunner advise);
rather we should so confront them with the Gospel that they are moved to ask the right questions. We are to begin wtih the Word of God in Scriputre and then relate it to the cultural situation; we do not begin with man's existential predicament and then try to discover whether Scripture throws any light upon it.
Kerygmatic preaching is based not on topics of current interest but on the Scriptural message, which has abiding relevance. Consequently, it takes the form of an elucidation of this message rather than a discourse on character or conduct. Kerygmatic preaching is sacramental rather than ethical because through this preaching sins are forgiven and hearts and minds transformed.
Biblical preaching will likewise be evangelical as opposed to moralistic. It will be based on the principle of the sovereignty and all-sufficiency of grace rather than the possibilities for righteousness inherent within man. This means that fidelity to the Word of God is more important than an appeal to the understanding or emotions of our hearers. If man's conversion has its source in divine grace instead of the freedom of the will, the hope of success lies in the action of the Holy Spirit, not in the persuasive powers of the preacher. Augustine wisely observed: "To will is of ourselves, but to will well, both partly and wholly is of grace."84
Regrettably, much current revivalistic preaching is Pelagian or semi-:elagian rather than Augustinian. The desired audience effect hangs not on the preaching but on the total package, which includes awesome settings, dramatic music, careful psychological timing, and altar calls. The altar call as a revival technique did not become fashionable until the first part of the nineteenth century, when it was adopted by Charles Finney; it was singularly absent from the earlier awakenings associated with Wesley, Whitefield, and Edwards, all of whom stressed the priority and all-sufficiency of grace. This is not to deny any place whatever for an altar call, particularly in evangelistic meetings, but preaching itself should contain the invitation. The invitational after the sermon, if it is to be held at all, should be to profess Christ publicly on the part of those who have received him inwardly.85 There may be times when a special act of dedication and surrender is called for at the close of the service, but Holy Communion should generally be the occasion for this. The loss of the penitential and decision-character of the blessed sacrament partially accounts for the rise and popularity of the altar call.
As has been implied, evangelical preaching stands in contrast not only to moralistic but to psychological preaching as well. The last is indeed a manifestation of a moralistic mentality. The focus is upon
sharing one's own experience of conversion or inducing such an experience in others. Paul indicted this general approach when he declared: "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5). And, as James Denney has trenchantly observed, "No man can at the same time call attention to himself and to Christ."86. Bonhoeffer also warns against this pitfall: "I am not expected primarily to testify emphatically to my salvation but to the Savior. I cannot save anybody with my human experience."87 Forsyth was especially critical of what he termed "impressionistic" preaching, by which the minister tries to make an impression upon his hearers rather than to uphold God's Word, even if this arouses displeassure and opposition.
Again, biblical preaching will be charismatic as opposed to formalistic. The preacher will seek to be led by the Spirit even as he speaks (Romans 15:18-19). Watchman Nee declares: "A minister of the word ministers with Spirit-taught words. Not only does the Holy Spirit speak words of wisdom with my lips; He teaches me how to speak."88 This does not deny the necessity for extensive preparation, but, after having prepared, the preacher should rely not on hisd notes or manuscript but upont he power of the Spirit. Luther makes this poignant observation: "Preachers often go astray in their notes so that they can't go on with what they have begun. It has often happened to me that my best outline came undone. On the other hand, when I was least prepared my words flowed during the sermon."89 Luther is not arguing agaisnt careful preparation but agaisnt dependence on one's own resources and wisdom.
Preaching on pericopes or texts selected by the church to fit in with the church year can be a means of quenching the Spirit. Pericopes can be useful as a general guide, but on should be open to the movement of the Spirit even in the selection of the text. We here agree with Paul Holmer:
Surely the pericopes are old and tried, and they probably do not utterly fail the purpose of our faith. But, they also omit a lot, and they tend to make the Bible fit the church practises and the rather demure way that most worshipers have of being domesticated to churchly life.90
Charismatic preaching does not necessarily involve a display of emotion on the part of either the preacher or the congregation. Ouor appeal is not to the feelings of people but to the power of the Holy Spirit. Bonhoeffer rightly criticized "senseless shouting and emotional excitement in preaching and worship. We are witnesses, not the trumpeters of the Last Judgment. That does not, however, exclude from our witness the utmost zeal but rather includes it."91
Finally, biblical preaching will be prophetic as well as evangelical and kerygmatic. This is to say it will include the application of the Law to the sins of society. Evangelical power stems from the preaching of the kerygma, but social relevance comes through the preaching of the Law. Those who are claled to the ministry of the Word must not be intimidated in the face of public opinion. They must be bold in declaring God's displeasure with social as well as individual sin. Too often, however, prophetic preaching becomes ideological, and what is proclaimed is no longer the divine Word that stands above the polarities in social conflict but the social philosophies of power groups within society. We see this especially in liberal preaching of the social gospel type which is often allied with left-wing causes, but it is also apparent in much conservative preaching which may be biblical in form but ideological in content. In holding up Christ as the direct answer to social problems, conservative preachers often encourage acquiescence to the political status quo, thereby betraying their alliance with the political and economic establishment from which they derive their financial support.
The recent fascination with dialogue preaching, in which two ministers share opinions on some social or theological issue, signifies an evasion of our prophetic mandate. It also indicates an abdication of evangelical preaching, since the focus is on seeking the truth in openness rather than proclaiming it with conviction and certainty. The real dialogue should be between Jesus Christ and the worshipper -- Christ speaking through the preacher and the Scripture, and man responding in prayers and hymns of praise.
True biblical preaching is discernible by its fruits. One sign of its authenticity is the experience of conviction of sin and repentance. Another is the creation of a fellowship of love (koinonia) and the willingness to enter into costly discipleship. Yet another is the urgency of mission, the desire to bring others into the fold of the saints.
A less welcome but no less inevitable test of biblical preaching is the opposition that it arouses. Such preaching not only disturbs sinners who prefer to be content in their sin but also antagonizes the spiritual powers of darkness which it exposes and overthrows. It was Luther's experience that, "as soon as the Word is preached and as soon as there are people that accept and confess it, the devil quickly appears with all his angels and arouses the world with all its might against this Word, to stifle it and completely destroy those that have and confess it."92 One should not confuse the opposition of the powers of evil to the Gospel with the understandable resistance of godfearing people to tactlessness, lovelessness, dictatorial methods, or slothfulness on the part
of the pastor, all traits which signify infidelity to the Word of God.
Finally, we should not that an awakened and converted congregatoin will honor the office of preaching. As Bonhoeffer put it: "The congregation which is being awakened by the proclamation of the Word of God will demonstrate the genuineness of its faith by honouring the office of preaching in its unique glory and by serving it with all its powers; it will not rely on its own faith or on the universal priesthood of all believers in order to depreciate the office of preaching, to place obstacles in its way, or even to try to make it subordinate to itself."93 For the later Bonhoeffer the office of the pastor deriveds its legitimation from Jesus Christ himself and not from the will of the congregation. A cultural church will be held together by the impact of the personality of the minister. A biblical church, on the other hand, will be sustained by the power and authority of the Word of God and the respect and honor given to the office of preaching. Whereas the spirit of camaraderie will be promoted in a cultural church, the expectation of hope and outgoing love will characterize a biblical church, one that is nurtured and enlivened by the preaching and hearing of the Word of God.
1. These words are from Barth's The Preaching of the Gospel, trans. B.E. Hooke (Philadelphi: Westminster Press, 1963), which still reflects a sacramental view of preaching. The later Barth was emphatic that preaching is a human response to the divine event of reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ and can only attest but not communicate this event, which is ever continuing and living.
2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Vol. 14, trans. Fathers of the Engllish Dominican Province (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1934) pp. 274-275.
3. In his preaching Savonarola was noted for his condemnation of the luxury of the Roman church of his day and its indifference to the poor. The Gospel remphasis is more clearly discernible in his spiritual writings though it is certainly obvious in many of his sermons. One biographer remarks: "The most powerful impressions made by his preaching were not through his impassioned denunciations of vice and evil-doing, but in his touching and beautiful descriptions of the mercy of God and his love, andin his tender and earnest pleadings with the people to bring their lives into harmony with the divine life of Jesus Christ." In William H. Crawford, Girolamo Savonarola (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1907), p. 95. Another interpreter comments: "His theology was in accord with the Catholic
orthodoxy of his age, having been chiefly formed by Aquinas. But his knowledge of Scripture and his reforming soul encouraged the entrance of many evangelical opinions into his sermons ... Besides the scholastic traces, and in spite of the struggle of his better knowledge of Scripture, the allegorical method of interpretation too much prevails and mars the force of his sermons." Edwin Charles Dargan, A History of Preaching, vol. 1, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), p. 358.
4. Quoted in Domenico Grasso, Proclaiming God's Messeage (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1965), p. 33.
5. Dargan, A History of Preaching, vol. 1, pp. 229, 230.
6. Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), pp. 149, 150.
7. Cited in The Reformed Journal, vol. 25, no. 6 (July-August 1975), p. 31.
8. Luther, W.A. 10 I, 1, 17.
9. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 22 (St. Louis; Concordia, 1956), p. 55.
10. Luther, W.A. 17 II, 262-263.
11. Thomas S. Kepler, ed., The Table Talk of Martin Luther, (Cleveland: World, 1952), p. 236.
12. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 15, 4, Ed. and trans. John Allen (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1936), p. 585.
13. John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah 55:11. Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera 37:291.
14. cf: "The Gospel is not preached that it may only be heard by us, but that it may as a seed of immortal life, altogether reform our hearts." Commentary on 1 Peter 1:23. Corpus Reformatorum Calv. Op., 55:229.
15. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. and ed. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849), ch. 10.16, pp. 400-401.
16. John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, III, 35, 4, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1852), p. 65.
17. "He also convinced them without the word, for we know how powerful are the secret instincts of the Spirit." Commentary on Matthew 15:23, Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera, 45:457. For Calvin, however, this is the exception and not the rule.
18. Arthur C. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), p. 225.
20. George Whitefield: "It is not the business of the ministers of the gospel ... to entertain people with harangues of dry morality, and leave out Jesus Christ." D. Macfarlane, Revivals of the Eighteenth Century (Edinburgh, n.d.), p. 32.
21. Irvonwy Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 14.
22. John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), p. 94.
23. Ibid., p. 97.
24. Ibid., p. 100.
26. Cited in Marie E. Richard, Philip Jacob Spener and His Work (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1897), p. 20.
27. He declares: "Whether edification takes place in Christian worship largely depends upon the process by which religious self-consciousness comes to be thought and then communicated." Friedrich Schleiermacher, Brief Outline on the Study of Theology, trans. Terrence N. Tice (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1966), p. 98.
28. P.T. Forsyth, Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind (London: Independent Press, 1953), p. 254.
30. Harry Escott, ed., The Cure of Souls: An Anthology of P.T. Forsyth's Practical Writings (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 133.
32. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, trans. Douglas Horton (New York: harper & Row, 1957), pp. 183-217.
33. Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 17.
34. In his earlier phase Barth was not averse to speaking of reconciliation as being effected through preaching, though he meant the fruits of reconciliation. See The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 22. As he matured in his thought, he ever more distinguished the reconciling work of Christ and the revealing work of the Spirit. The Spirit discloses in preaching what has already been enacted and effected for all mankind in the cross and resurrection of Christ.
35. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, rev. ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: Macmillan, 1967), p. xiii.
36. Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. Eric Mosbacher et al. (London: Collins, 1970), p. 361.
37. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), p. 108.
38. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 188.
39. Bonheoffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 280-282, 299-300, 327. Also see his Ethics, ed. Eberhard Bethge, trans. Neville Horton Smith (New York: Macmillan, 1962), pp. 84 ff.
40. See Paul Tillich, The Interpretation of History, trans. N.A. Rasetzki and Elsa L Talmey (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936), pp. 46, 47; and his The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), pp. 153 ff.
41. Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 10.
42. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), pp. 141-142.
43. John Wesley's Forty-Four Sermons, 12th ed. (London: Epworth Press, 1975), p. 400.
44. Luther's Works, vol. 29, p. 184.
45. Evangelicals would do well to remember that Jonathan Edwards spoke out against unethical business practices, rebuking parishioners for denying grazing rights to the poor and for raising the price of their grain in times of poor harvest (A.D. magazine, vol. 5, no. 9 [September 1976], p. 28). He also
defended Indian land rights against members of his own congregation and his own relatives (while serving at the frontier Indian mission at Stockbridge after his dismissal from his congregation at Northampton in 1750). We should also bear in mind the politically incendiary preaching of the Scottish Reformer John Knox. Though his sermons were theological in substance, they had far-reaching pollitical and social consequences.
46. Gary R. Collins, ed., Ouor Society in Turmoil (Carol Stream, Ill.: Creation House, 1970), p. 22.
47. Reinhold Niebuhr, Justice and Mercy (New YOrk: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 134.
48. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 225.
49. Karl Barth, God Here and Now, trans. Paul M. Van Buren (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964), p. 78.
50. Daniel Callahan, Heiko Oberman, and Daniel J. O'Hanlon, eds., Christianity Divided (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1961), p. 235.
51. Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), pp. 84-85.
52. Rudolf Bultmann, Primitive Christianity in Its Contemporary Setting, trans. R.H. Fuller (London: Thames & Hudson, 1956), p. 23.
53. P.T. Forsyth, Congregationalism and Reunion. (London: Independent Press, 1952), p. 78.
54. Zwingli, unlike Luther and Calvin, restricted the Eucharist to four times a year and saw the worship service oriented about the sermon. He set the pace for the rationalizing of Protestant worship whereby the mystical and sacramental aspects of worship faded into the background.
55. Robert Webber, "Agenda for the Church 1976-2000," Eternity, vol. 27, no. 1 (January 1976), pp. 15 ff.
56. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 215.
57. P.T. Forsyth, The Church and the Sacraments, 2nd ed. (London: Independent Press, 1947), p. 232.
58. Emil Brunner, Our Faith, trans. John W. Rilling (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1954), pp. 127, 128.
59. Quoted in Samuel M. Shoemaker, By the Power of God (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), p. 128.
60. Cited in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), p. 350.
61. In a personal letter dated February 25, 1976. For McDonnell worship should be seen as the context for the Word.
62. Hans Kung, The Church, trans. Ray Ockenden and Rosaleen Ockenden (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967), p. 219.
63. Luther, W.A. 38, 231.
64. John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, II, 5, 19, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849), p. 239.
65. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 14, 4, ed. John T. McNeill, p. 1279.
66. Clyde E. Fant, Bonhoeffer: Worldly Preaching (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1975), pp. 129-130.
67. Hans-Joachim Kraus, The Threat and the Poser, trans. Keith Crim (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1971), p. 73.
68. Martin Luther, Von Ordnung Gottesdiensts, W.A. 12, 35.
69. We affirm that both symbols -- table and altar -- have a place in Reformed Christianity, since the Eucharist is both a fellowship meal and a representation and proclamation of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. The Mercersburg movement in the German Reformed church in nineteenth-century America recovered the sacrificial dimension of Eucharistic worship.
70. See Frederick W. Schroeder, Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1966), pp. 139-147. Our own recommendation is for a monthly observance of the sacrament.
71. Fant, Bonhoeffer: Worldly Preaching, p. 173.
72. Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 175.
73. P.T. Forsyth, God the Holy Father (London: Independent Press Ltd., 1957), p. 61.
74. Cf. Donald G. Miller: "Unless our messsage is an unfolding of the meaning of the Scriptures, we are orators and not preacher. And the world will never be saved by oratory -- only by God!" In his Fire in Thy Mouth (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1954), p. 109.
75. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.E. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), p. 95.
76. Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 30.
77. James Montgomery Boice, "The Great Need for Great Preaching," Christianity Today, vol. 19, no. 6 (December 20, 1974), p. 9.
78. Sermon on Deuteronomy 5:23-27. Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera, 26:406.
79. Emil Brunner, Revelation and Reason, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1946), p. 157.
80. Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, trans. Alexander Dru (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 97 n.
81. Karl Barth, The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1939), p. 83.
82. Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 108.
83. Bertram Lee Woolf, ed., Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 1 (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), p. 368.
84. Quoted in Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 33.
85. The invitational, to be sure, can be the occasion for the decision of faith itself, and therefore our recommendation should be taken only as a general principle. We urge, however, that people be encouraged to surrender to Christ and forsake their sins in the situation of the preaching and hearing of the Word, for otherwise preaching is simply a preparation for an extrabiblical devotional practice viewed as the climax of the service.
86. Cited in James McGraw, Great Evangelical Preachers of Yesterday (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1961), p. 8.
87. Fant, Bonhoeffer, Worldly Preaching, p. 167.
88. Watchman Nee, The ministry of God's Word (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1971), p. 187.
89. Luther's Works, vol. 54, p. 213.
90. Paul Holmer, "Contemporary Evangelical Faith: An Assessment and Critique." In The Evangelicals, eds. David F. Wells and John D. Woodbridge (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1975) [pp. 68-95], pp. 73-74.
91. Fant, Bonhoeffer, Worldly Preaching, pp. 172-173.
92. Luther's Works, vol. 12, p. 167.
93. Bonhoeffer, Ethics. p. 260.
V. The Priesthood of All Believers
Sin lurks deep
The Grandeur and Misery of Mankind
The Priesthood of All Believers
As you come to him, the living Stone ... you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5
And you have gathered them into a kingdom and made them priests of our God; they shall reign upon the earth. Revelation 5:10
Since he is a priest and we are his brethren, all Christians have the power and must fulfill the commandments to preach and to come before God with our intercessions for one another and to sacrifice ourselves to God. Martin Luther
Not only ministers but all Christians are made priests by their Savior, are anointed by the Holy Spirit, and are dedicated to perform spiritual-priestly acts. Philip Spener
The abolition of a special priestly caste and its replacement by the priesthood of the one new and eternal high priest has as its strange and yet logical consequence the fact that all believers share in a universal priesthood. Hans Kung
Priesthood in the Bible
It is commonly believed that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers has its basis in the New Testament rather than the Old and that the Old Testament conception of priesthood is superseded and annulled. Yet a careful examination of the Old Testament discloses that the New Testament doctrine is indeed anticipated in the Old. Under the Mosaic covenant the whole nation is to be a "kingdom of priests" and hence a holy people (Exodus 19:6; Lev. 11:44ff.; Numbers 15:40).
The sanctity required of the whole people is, however, symbolized in a special priesthood drawn from the tribe of Levi which functioned as a mediator of the covenant. This Levitical priesthood had a representative character. Its members discharged their duties on behalf of the community as a whole. Through their ministrations the true requirements for serving God were continually kept before the eyes of the covenant people. The covenant relationship with God was vicariously maintained by this priesthood in the name of the whole nation. In this way a purified and sactified Israel was able to serve God and receive his blessing (Zechariah 3:1-5).
In the earliest known social pattern of Israel, however, priests as a class did not exist. Any Israelite man could present offereings to God: this was usually the tribal leader or eldest son, for instance, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Manoah, and Gideon. Samuel, generally thought of as a prophet, nevertheless fulfilled all the functions of a priest (1 Samuel 2:18; 3:1; 9:13-25). During the early monarchy kings sometimes exercised priestly prerogatives, for example, David (2 Samuel 6:12-19; 24:25) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:15). In Israelite tradition the special priesthood originated at Sinai, with the consecration of Aaron and his sons. At the same time, as we have seen, prophets, judges, and kings also assumed priestly roles on various occasions.
As Israelite religion developed the preistly role was eve more restricted to a special caste. Whe the temple became a national institution under the kings, the priesthood was given additional prestige. After the return form the exile it assumed an even more important role, since it was religion that now gave Israel is governors, it's institutions and meaning, the reason for its being. As the priesthood was increasingly elevated in Hebrew society, the tensions between prophet and priest became steadily more pronounced. The ritual sacrifices of the priests were regarded by prophetic figures as of considerably less value than acts of justice and mercy (Micah 6:6-8; Amos 5: 21-24). It was the sacrifice of a broken heart that was deemed most acceptable before God (Psalm 51:17). The priesthood of the whole people of God was reaffirmed in the messianic prediction of Isaiah: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God" (Isaiah 61:6; cf. Joel 2:28-29).
By the time of Jesus the authority of the priestly caste had become intolerably oppressive.1 Beginning in 400 B.C., when the Jews accepted the Torah as their canonical guidebood, the high priest at Jerusalem not only receiveed tithes as an offering but demanded them as a legal requirement. The aristocratic priestly party, the Sadducees, saw in
Jesus a special threat, since he assumed the role of the perfect and great high priest. Jesus did not repudiate the Jewish priesthood not the sacrifical system of the Temple, but he made clear that the kingdom of God transcends the restrictions of cultus and sacrifice and that the spirit of worship, not the place of worship, is of utmost significance (John 4:23). He also pointed to himself as the true temple of God and thereby incurred the wrath of the high priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:61; cf. John 2:19-21).
The New Testament is unequivocal that the sacrifices and burnt offerings of the Old Testament priesthoos are both superseded and fulfilled in the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Whereas the sacrifices of the priesthood under the old covenant were offered repeatedly and could never take away sin, Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin that effects salvation (Romans 3:25; 8:3; Hebrews 10:11-12). The believer can now enter the sanctuary of God's presence through the blood of Christ and no longer needs the special mediation of a priestly caste. All that is necessary is that we come to God with the full assurance of faith and hope in the promises of Christ (Hebrews 10:22-23).
The priesthood of Jesus finds its type and pattern in the legendary figure of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110:4), who "is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life' (Hebrews 7:3). Christ's priesthood is eternal, for he continues to interced for us at the right hand of God (Hebrews 7:24-25). Human mediators are no longer necessary, since his Spirit dwells within those who believe. We now have direct accesss to God through him who dies for us and rose again and lives within us by his Spirit.
In Judaism priesthood was hereditary in the tribe of Levi. The priest was a mediator between the divine and human by virtue of his superior knowledge of the supernatural. He was the director and performer of sacrifices offered to the diety.
In the New Testament church, on the other hand, one becomes a priest by being united through faith in the one Mediator, Jesus Christ. Because we are his brethren, we share in his priestly role by offering spiruital sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:5). By his Spirit we are enabled to intercede, sacrifice, and counsel on behalf of others. Christ brings our sacrifices and intercessions before the Father and thus renders them acceptable and effectual (1Peter 2:5; Hebrews 7:25). Christians share in the kingly rule of Christ as well as in his priestly intercession (Rev. 1:6) and therefore fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the New Israel as a holy nation and royal priesthood (Exod. 19:6; Isaiah 42:6; 61:6). The church is indeed
estabished as a "kingdom of priests" (Rev. 1:6: 5:10; 20:6) who are empowered to preach, sacrifice, and intercede for the world. All its members have been anointed by the Spirit to be witnesses and ambassadors of Christ (cf. Act 2:17-18).
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The priesthood of believers, as the New Testament understands this, cannot be adequately understood apart from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are called to exercise their priesthood but in different ways, depending on the gifts that have been allotted to them. Calling, indeed, is correlative with charism. The way we serve in the body of Christ is conditional on how we use the charisms that are bestowed on us in faith and baptism (cf. 1 Cor. 7:17).
Paul was conscious that his own ministry was grounded in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrough through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of sings and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit: "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:18-19). His preaching is here depicted as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in and through h im. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is declared that the message was spoken first by the Lord and then attested by the apostles "while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit diestributed according to his own will" (Heb. 2:3-4).
The charisms of the Spirit do not refer to innate talents or powers but to potentialities that are created, aroused, and appealed to by the Holy Spirit (Kung). They are wholly dependent on the empowering and renewing activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the members of the church. This is why they can be spoken of as manifestations of the Holy Spirit, though they are exercised and applied by the individual Christian.
Charisms are given to all Christians for the purpose of the upguilding and extension of the body of Christ. Even the gift of tongues, which is for personal edification, nonetheless contributes to the well-being and upbuilding of the church indirectly. When it is united with the gift of interpretation, it serves to edify and instruct others. The charisms are "not special marks of disctinction belonging to the few" but "a distinguishing mark of the whole church" (Kung).
However significant the charisms may be in the fulfilling of the mission of the church, they are not the hallmark of being a Christian.
Extraordinary gifts appear among unbelievers as well, and this is why Paul declared that the evidence of true faith is the confession of Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:2-3) Miracles of healing were evident among the Pharisees as well as among the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 12:27). Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jews, who was not himself a follower of Christ, nonetheless prophesized that Jesus would die not only for the nation but for the whole people of God (John 11:49-52). Jesus cautioned his disciples that they should rejoice not in their ability to do great things for God, in their powers of exorcicism and healing, but in their election by God for salvation (Luke 10:17-20).
The gifts of the Spirit are distributed to the whole community of believers, but not everyone receives the very same gift. The Spirit chooses to work through some members of the body of Christ in a different way than through others. The charisms are not uniform but multiform, and therefore there is a diversity in ministry even though there is a oneness in mission. In order to combat anarchic and illuministic tendencies Paul reminds the Corinthians that God has instituted a variety of ministries and orders (1 Cor. 12:28-30). Some persons are called to exercise the public ministries of teaching, preaching, and evangelization. Other charisms, such as admonishing, consoling, wisdom, knowledge, and the discerning of spirits are private endowments given by God for the service of others to be used as the occasion demands. It is incumbent upon all Christians to witness to the faith, but not all are called to witness publicly in the role of apostels, pastors, and evangelists. Jesus appointed the seventy to preach and heal, but whene one who was healed asked to serve him as a disciple, he replied that he should instead return to his home community and share the good news iwth his family and friends (Mark 5:18-19). In Acts 6:1-4 we read that deacons were appointed to help in the distribution of food to the needy so that the apostles could devote themselves to the ministry of the word. Peter declares that we should use whatever gift is given to us to "serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10).
All members of the church have their special call and their personal ministry, even though all do not share in the pastoral ministry. A charism for the exercise of a special ministry can be prayed for (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6), but one must be willing to make the sacrifice that the gift requires. Paul urged his hearers to earnestly desire the higher gifts (1 Cor. 12:31), such as prophecy, teaching, and preaching, though he did not denigrate the gift of tongues and regarded it as a salutary aie in prayer and personal communion with God. It is highly probable that
Paul himself spoke in tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 14:18; 2 Cor. 5: 13), though he resisted the notion that this is the evidence or sign of having the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:2-3).
It is not our intention here to give an in-depth examination of the various charisms of the Holy Spirit, but at least twenty are mentioned in the New Testament. What is important to recognize is that all believers share in the ministry and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ through the charisms that they have received. All ministries, including, including those exercised by a special commission (E.g., pastor, teacher) are charismatic. Gifts that are not used will atrophy, and this is what happened when sacerdotalism replaced the priesthood of all believers, and formalism usurped the charismatic fellowship of love (koinonia) that characterized New Testament Christianity at its best. This, of course, accounts for the Monanist reaction in the second and third centuries, when an attempt was made to regain the free exercise of the gifts of the Spirit.
We need to be reminded that every Christian as a priest and king is directed to some special calling and ministry within the one ministry of Christ. Some are called to be evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Others are appointed to be healers and workers of miracles. Other are given the charisms of knowledge, wisdom, wonder-working faith, exorcism, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Still others are equipped by the Spirit to serve in an extraordinary way, to admonish and to administer. Some people may be endowed with many of these charisms and others with only a few. All may appear in the lives of a few Christians, since the Spirit acts and moves as he wills, but it seems that every Christian is directed to a particular form of service within the one body, and this means that he will be endowed with particular gifts that will enable him to fulfill this calling. A church where the charismatic gifts in all their variety and wonder are not in evidence is something less than the church founded at Pentecost. A church where the priestly role is restricted to the office of the pastor or bishop is a church where the Spirit has been quenched and grieved. All believers are called to be priests and kings with Christ, and this means all are given the privilege of interceding and sacrificing for their brethren; yet the way in which we exercise this ministry will vary depending on how the Spirit chooses to manifest himself in and through us.
For the purposes of order and propriety the early church was compelled to stsructure itself, and special offices of pastors and deacons were created. Kung maintains that there is no evidence of a monarachical episcopate in the Pauline communities, though bishops, however, were equivalent to pastors or presbyters,a dn their funciotn was basically administrative and pastoral. The bishops and deacons at Philippi (Phil. 1:1) seem to be comparable to the teachers at Corinth and the "presbyter-bishops" of Ephesus. In 1 Peter (2:25) the chief Shepherd alone is given the title of episkopos (bishop), but in Titus the idea of presbyter is replaced by that of episkopos (1:7).
By the beginning of the third century the role of bishop became more liturgical in character. The titles "priest" and "high priest" were now applied to the minstry of the bishop, a practice which had earlier been strictly avoided. The first Christian writers to use the words priest and high priest of the church's ministers were Tertullian and Hippolytus. Kung makes this astute observation: "A genuine sacralizing and ritualizing took effect, especially from the fifth and sixth centuries on: fading of the ministry of the word into the background, the cultic-ritual activity of the minister as the real priestly work, reification of liturgical authority, a special holiness and dignity proper to the office holder."2 The recognition of the universal priesthood of belilevers was not wholly lost sight of, however, even though it was not effectively put into practice. Ambrose, who emphasized the sacramental character of the church, could nevertheless affirm: "Everyone is anointed into the priesthood, is anointed into the kingdom, but the spiritual kingdom is also the spiritual priesthood."3
In the high middle ages the juridical model of the church reigned supreme, and, except for the protests of charismatic and mystical movements like the Spiritual Franciscans and the Friends of God, it was not adequately challenged. Avery Dulles describes the role of the clergy in this model:
All the functions of the bishop or priest are juridicized. When he teaches, people are obliged to accept his doctrine not because of his knowledge or personal gifts but because of the office he holds. When he celebrates the sacraments, the priest exercises sacred powers that others do not have. According to some theories the priest's "power of the keys" enables him at his discretion to supply or withhold the means of grace, and thus to confer or deny what is needed for salvation -- a truly terrifying power over the faithful.4
According to Bonaventure the priestly office has a sevenfold function: to instruct in matters of faith, develop virtues, give an example of holiness, intercede through prayers, heal injuries inflicted by enemies. warn against imminent dangers, and repel demonic assaults.5 He likened the priest to a trustee of the treasures of the faith, a leader and shepherd of the faithful, and a watchman who guards the souls of his people.
The Council of Trent decided that sermons in the strict sense should be reserved for bishops and their assistants. A general ban on lay preaching was officially incorporated in the Codex Iuris Coninici (1918), though a layman (Ladovico Nogorola) preached at the Council of Trent itself. Hans Kung argues that, with the change of theological climate in the Catholic Church inaugurated by the Second Vatican Council, the time might be propitious for a restoration of lay preaching.6
In its "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity" the Second Vatican Council sought to make a place for the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of believers by maintaining that all Christians are sharers in the priestly, kingly, and prophetic role of Christ (Chapter III). It asserted that the laity "should above all make missionary activity their own by giving material or even personal assistance, for it is a duty and honor for Christians to return to God a part of the good things they receive from Him."7
At the same time, the idea of the special hierarchical priesthood was stoutly reaffirmed in the Council. It was claimed that our Lord appointed certain individuals who "would be able by the sacred power of their order to offer sacrifice and to remit sins."8 Such persons "shoulder the sacred task of the gospel, so that the offering of the people can be made acceptable through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit."9 Because of the sacrament of orders, "priests of the New Testament exercise the most excellent and necessary office of father and teacher among the People of God and for them."10
More recently Hans Kung has valiantly labored to recover the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and has definitely gone beyond the Council at various points. Kung vigorously opposes the sacralization of the Church's ministry which sets its holder as a sacred person apart from others and raises him above ordinary Christians to be a mediator with God. "From the dissolution of the special priesthood by the priesthood of the one, new and eternal high priest," he explains, "there follows .... the universal priesthood of all believers, which has as its concrete content the immediate access of everyone to God,
spiritual sacrifices, the proclamation of the word, the carerying out of baptism, the Eucharist, and the forgiveness of sins, and mutual intercession for one another."11 According to Kung every faithful believer may preach, intercede in prayer, baptize, and administer the elements at the Lord's Supper. He even claims that, because the whole Church has the power to forgive sins, "every Christian is fundamentally empowered to take an active part in the forgiving of sins."12 The power of the keys to bind and loose (John 20:23) is, therefore, not the exclusive prerogative of the clergy. Yet he recognizes that for purposes of church order some of these rights can be limited by the community. He is unwilling to disavow the special role of the pastor in the governance of the church and the special gifts that this role entails. At the same time he allows that, in extraordinary circumstances where no duly ordained pastor is available, a layman may then preside at the Eucharist and even be ordained by fellow laymen for the purpose of baptizing and presiding at the Eucharist. Not surprisingly, Kung's radical departure from the Roman Catholic tradition in this area has elicited some negative reaction in conservative Catholic circles.
The universal priesthood of believers was given special prominence in the Protestant Reformation, particularly by Martin Luther. For Luther, "all Christians are priests, and all priests are Christians. Worthy of anathema is any assertion that a priest is anything else than a Christian."13 Since Christ is the one high priest, and we are his brethren, "all Christians have the power and must fulfill the commandment to preach and to come before God with our intercessions for one another and to sacrifice ourselves to God."14 Luther went so far as to avow that any Christian may, in principle, bestow baptism and preside at Communion. He also maintained that "there is no other kind of sin than that which any Christian can bind or loose. There is no other sacrifice than of the body of every Christian."15 At the same time, just as vigorously insistend that the public preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments be properly done by ministers, who become such by a special calling. In his battle with the enthusiasts he was compelled to reassert the special office of the clergy for the purpose of maintaining church order and discipline. Yet he steadfastly contended for the priesthood of believers not as a substitute for the ministry of the word but as its supplement. In Luther's perspective all Christians are priests by virtue of their baptism, but only a few are ministers through public ordination. The holy priesthood of believers does not exclude the ministry of the word but constitutes its basis and goal. It is the priesthood that designates who are to be ministers and
not vice versa.16 He could even say that priests are "thus greater than mere kings, the reason being that priesthood makes us worthy to stand before God, and to pray for others. For to stand and pray before God's face is the prerogative of none except priests."17
For Luther the pastoral ministry is subordinated to the priesthood even in the practice of the private confession of sins. He rejected the ecclesiastical rule that required confession, but yet he saw confession as an indispensable form of the Gospel. When we go to the pastor to confess sins, we should see him first of all as a brother and a Christian and then as a clergyman.18 Indeed, hearing confession is a priestly service which one may receive from any brother.
The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is not nearly so pronounced in the theologies of Calvin and Zwingli. For Calvin Christ's priestly work is finished and can in no way be supplemented or repeated by priests of the church. He maintained that Christ never entrusted the function of sacrificing to the apostles nor wished it to be undertaken by any of their successors. Yet he recognized that all Christians must offer spiritual sacrifices to God; first they offer themselves and then they intercede for their brethren.19 Calvin acknowldged four ministries in the church: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Outside of these official functions, he did not see any special ministries available for believers in fulfilling the greate commission. Charismatic ministries such as healing and prophecy were relegated to the apostolic age.
Zwingli explained that the "royal priesthood" of 1 Peter 2 meant that "the Lord Jesus Christ has called all Christians to kingly honour and to the priesthood, so that they do not need a sacrificing priest to offer on their behalf, for they are all priests, offering spiritual gifts, that is, dedicating themselves wholly to God."20 In Zwingli's discussion of the holy priesthood the Christian as priest offers himself to God, but nothing is said of the ministry of intercession and service to one's neighbor.21
The Belgic Confession is typical of the Reformation confessions in elevating the ministry of the Word while slighting or ignoring the priesthood of all believers. Article XXX declares:
We believe that this true Church must be governed by the spiritual policy which our Lord has taught us in his Word -- namely, that there must be Ministers or Pastors to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Sacraments: also elders and deacons, who together with the pastors, form the council of the Church; that by these means the true religion may be preserved.22
Surprisingly, the priesthood of believers is also absent from the Augsburg Confession as well as other Lutheran creeds.23
It remained for Evangelical Pietism to give the biblical doctrine of the holy priesthood of believers the attention it deserves. Whereas this doctrine received theoretical recognition from Luther and his colleagues, the Pietists gave it tangible expression. Indeed, one of their salient emphases was the priesthood of all believers over the exclusive priesthood of the clergy. Since they attached more importance to the spiritual illumination than to education and even ordination, impetus was thereby given to the ministry of the laity.
Philip Spener's contribution to the development of this doctrine is especially significant:
Everybody imagines that just as he was himself called to his office, business, or trade and the minister was neither called to such an occupation nor works in it, so the minister alone is called to perform spiritual acts, occupy himself with the Word of God, pray, study, teach, admonish, comfort, chastise, etc., while others should not trouble themselves with such things and, in fact, would be meddling in the minister's business if they had anything to do with them.24
On the contrary, said Spener, "not only ministers but all Christians are made priests by their Savior, are anointed by the Holy Spirit, and are dedicated to perform spiritual-priestly acts."25 He was convinced that the spiritual priesthood consists in the threefold office of sacrifice, prayer, and the use of God's Word. Any Christian, therefore, may celebrate the sacraments in cases of necessity, espeically baptism. In the absence of an ordained preacher the Lord's Supper may also be celebrated, though care should be taken that the one who presides is solid in the faith. Like Luther Spener attacked the idea that without private confession to a priest there is no forgiveness of sins. He criticized the confessional as it was then practiced in some Lutheran circles as a requirement for Holy Communion. Any Christian may confess to a fellow believer and in this way receive absolution.
As a complement to the traditional service of worship, Spener advocated the formation of special assemblies where laypeople could come together for the purpose of mutual consolation and edification. In such an assembly, "one person would not rise to preach ... but others who have been blessed with gifts and knowledge would also speak and present their pious opinions on the proposed subject to the judgment of the rest, doing all this in such a way as to avoid disorder and strife."26 Women, too, were permitted to give testimonies and prayers at such meetings, and this particularly disturbed those who were rigidly traditionalist
or orthodox. In Spener's view every Christian is given the privilege of teaching others, of chastising, exhorting, and converting. Every believer should be concerned about the personal salvation of his fellow human beings and should devote himself to prayer on their behalf.
Yet Spener, like Luther before him, recognized that, though all Christians are called to exercise spiritual functions, not all are called to the public exercise of them. All Christians by virtue of being anointed by the Holy Ghost stand in the spiritual office and in case of need may administer its duties. Yet every Christian will respect and honor those who have been publicly commissioned to the task of shepherding and preaching. The spiriutal priesthood does not encroach on the office of the pastor but is tis necessary supplement.
The priesthood of all believers was given additional impetus in the Wesleyan movement. Wesley was unwilling to discard the notion of a separated ministry, but he was adamant that the laity too must participate in the evangelistic mandate of the church through personal witnessing, intercession, Bible study, and deeds of mercy. In his perspective it seems that we are all priests by regeneration, not by baptism. The vision of the holy priesthood is epitomized in Annie Matheson's missionary hymn:
Tell every man on earth,
The greatest and the least,
Love called him from his birth,
To be a king and priest.27
The charismatic gifts, especially the so-called extraordinary gifts, were more in evidence among the Anabaptists and radical Pietists than in the mainstream evangelical movement. Prophecy, healing, discerning of spirits, miracles, and glossolalia were present in some Anabaptist circles, though the emphasis was always upon a life of contrition and penitential suffering. The baptism of martyrdom and blood was regarded more highly than an ecstatic baptism of the Spirit.
Johann Christoph Blumhardt, nineteenth-century German revival preacher, became noted for his ministry of deliverance, which entailed the exorcism of demons. His motto "Jesus is Victor" was later adopted by Karl Barth as the salient theme of his theology.28 Through his Christ-centered emphasis Blumhardt succeeded in overcoming the subjectivism that marred much latter-day Pietism.29
Radical Pietism, which gave birth to religious communities and new sects, stressed the need for a continual openness to the movement of
the Spirit. The Community of True Inspiration (Amana Society) accorded special recognition to divinely attuned individuals (Werzeugue) who fell into trance-like states and uttered prophecies with authority. New revelations and spiritual healings have figured prominently in the Catholic Apostolic church (Irvingites), the Christian Catholic church (Doweyites), and teh New Apostolic church. Among the Plymouth Brethren the idea of a separated clergy is wholly rejected, and any layman illumined by the Spirit can give a special address at mettings or officiate at the Lord's Supper. While speaking much of the gifts of the Spirit, the Brethren have emphasized preaching, evangelism, and prayer and not the more spectacular gifts.
In original Quakerism, too, there was no ordained clergy, and every follower of Christ was believed free "to speak or prophesy by the Spirit" (Robert Barclay). George Fox averred that Christians receive a part of the ministry through "the exercise of their spiritual gifts in the church."30 The sacraments were regarded as being mainly relics of primitive magic. Prophecy, healings, and new revelations were not uncommon in the early history of Quakerism.
The gifts of the Spirit have been especially pronounced in the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal movements, with particular emphasis on glossalalia and spiriutal healing. Glossalalia is generally considered the evidence of the baptism or infilling of the HOly Spirit, and experience thought to be subsequent to conversion. Yet other gifts are also given prominent attention, gifts which have been minimized or ignored in mainline Protestantism: the working of miracles, discerning of spirits, prophecy, and the word of knowledge. Regrettably, not as much importance is attached to the less spectacular gifts of teaching, administration, and lowly service, though these gifts are not neglected. While preaching is still highly regarded in the mainstream of Pentecostalism, in some sects preaching is seen as less significant than personal testimonies and healing ceremonies. David du Plessis, an ecumenical Pentecostal, voices this complaint: "I have seen too many shouting Christians go to sleep when the Word is preached. They live on 'milk' and choke on the 'meat' of the Word."31 In the Catholic Apostolic church, which combines charisma and liturgy, preaching has generally been restricted to ten minutes, and ritual is given precedence. The openness of many Pentecostals to new revelations reflects a spiritualistic orientation in which God's direct guidance to an indivivdual takes precedence over the Bible.
Nonetheless, those of us in the Reformed tradition should recognize that Pentecostalism at its best has recovered the charasmatic dimension
of New Testament Christianity. The spirit of prophecy is still alive in the charismatic churches, though admittedly it has led to certain excesses. Moreover, the priesthood of all belilevers is a vibrant reality in these churches. Because of the recognition of the gifts of the Spirit many doors have been opened to spiritually sensitive laymen to engage in a priestly and evangelical ministry. Women too have found a ministry even in the pulpits of Pentecostal churches, and this has been generally denied to them in historical Protestantism.
In Protestant liberal theology the priesthood of believers has been affirmed in such a way as to undercut the idea of a special ministry of the word and sacraments. Theologians who were markedly influenced by the Enlightenment sought to overcome the distinctions between clergy and laity. The pastor was no longer a father figure who speaks God's authoritative word but a fellow-traveler on life's journey who shares the insights and wisdom that he has accumulated on the way. In Schleiermacher's words: "Let there be an assembly before him and not a congregation. Let him be a speaker for all who will hear, but not a shepherd of a definite flock."32 In the view of this theologian, "every man is a priest, in so far as he draws others to himself in the field he has made his own and can show himself master in; every man is a layman, in so far as he follows the skill and direction of another in the religious matters with which he is less familiar."33 For Schleiermacher the priestly capacity is something to be gained through the cultivation of religious feeling. Because he recognized a diversity of gifts, he came to accept the place for an ordered ministry but not as a special class removed from the laity. The task of those who develop their religious sensibilities is not to absolve from sin or intercede in prayer but to share religious insights and experiences and guide their fellow human beings in the quest for meaning and reality.
Despite the attack of liberals upon a special ministry under the Word, they developed their own sacerdotalism, but it was based on cultural rather than religious considerations. The Puritans in England and America complained that the liberal clergy sought preeminence over their brethren by virtue of educaiton and worldly honors.34 It was the Puritans who criticized the preoccupation of the liberal clergy with a guaranteed annual income and job security. In Puritan religion the pastors should be essentially concerned with upholding the faith and shepherding and nurturing the flock that is their charge.
The biblical doctrine of the priesthood of believers is conspicuously apparent in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who maintained that all Christians must intercede, witness, exhort and reprove, and give counsel. In order
to unburden oneself of guilt one need not go to an ecclesiastical superior or trained counselor but should feel free to approach a Christian brother or sister, since it is this person who now stands in Christ's stead. For Bonhoeffer, "the most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus ... In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner."35 Bonhoeffer did not deny the need for an overseer or pastor so long as the pastoral ministry was one of service rather than of domination: "Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the pastor derived from the congregation, he later regarded it as originating from Christ himself.37
The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments
In the light of this brief historical survey it is now appropriate to examine the precise relation between the priesthood of believers, in which all Christians share, and the special ministry of the Word and sacraments. This special ministry is not separate from the priesthood of believers but the pivotal ministry within it. In the Old Testament we read that the people of Israel were called to the service of the glory of God (Isaiah 42:6), but also special persons, prophets, were directed to particular tasks (Isaish 6: 8-9; 50:2). Every believer was commissioned to a holy vocation, but some were appointed shepherds and guardians of the faith (Jer. 23:1-4; Isaiah 63:11; Ezek. 3:17 ff.; 33:7). The priesthood as a special caste was abolished by Jesus Christ, but the concept of a special pastoral ministry remained. This special ministry was anticipated by the prophet Malachi when he declared: "The lips of a priest should guard knowldge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger ofd the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 2:5-7). Here the priest is seen not as one who offers sacrifices but as one who gives guidance and direction in the faith.
The ministry of the Word has its basis not only in the priesthood of believers but also in the messianic commissioning of the apostles by Christ. Only some were commissioned by our Lord to preach the Word to the nations. This is to say that the ministry of the Word, like some of the other special ministries of the church (evangelist, deacon, elder),
is a divine office. It is at the same time a charismatic ministry, since it is made possible by spiritual gifts which accompany the divine calling. Paul makes clear that this office is of divine institution: "I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known" (Col. 1:25; cf. Romans 15:15-16). In his address to the elders of Ephesus he points out that this office is one of shepherding and preaching: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood" (Acts 20:28; cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:7-9). He also affirms that this ministry is based on a special charismatic endowment: "Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace which was given me by the working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7).
The rite of ordination was already present in the New Testament church, though the idea was probably taken from Judaism. We read that Moses laid his hands on Joshua, imparting to him the spirit of wisdom needed for his work (Deut. 34:9). In the New Testament the ritual probably took the form of the laying on of hands with intercessory prayers, as described in the commissioning of the Seven (Acts 6:3-6; cf. 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). We concur with Kung that ordination is not a sacrament in the New Testament sense of being instituted by Christ. Nonetheless, it is a spiritual event where the Spirit is active through the laying on of hands. Ordination is a sign of the special apostolate of the ministries of leadership It is a ratification of charism but not its precondition. It signifies "the public calling of a believer to the ministry of leadership, in which the Church recognizes and confirms God's calling."38
Hans Kung's efforts to recover the priesthood of all believers for the church have not prevented him from acknowleding the special ministry of the Word and sacraments. "All Christians," he says, "have authority to preach the word, to witness to their faith in the Church and in the world, to 'missionize.' But only pastors with a special calling, or those commissioned by them, have the particular authority to preach in the meetings of the community."39 In Kung's view the pastor is "a special person in the community, since he is authorized as one with speical powers to exercise a specail ministry in the public life of the community."40 He has the authority to found and govern communities, to unite and build up communities, to preach the word in the public assembly, to baptize and celebrate the Lord's Supper, and to bind and to loose from the bondage of sin. "His authority is guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit, which was called down on him by his vocation and
through the laying-on of hands and the praying over him; and this vocation must constantly be renewed, the gift of the Spirit must constantly be revived."41 For Kung the fundamental apostolic succession is that of the Church itself and of every Christian and consists of an objective keeping of the faith of the apostles, which must be concretely realized ever again. At the same time he affirms a special apostolic succession of the ministries of leadership. Reformed Christianity would heartily concur in his view that those preachers who remain faithful to the apostolic message stand in the apostolic succession.42
In some respects Kung's position is closer to Luther's than to traditional Roman Catholicism. Luther affirmed the priesthood of all believers, but he also contended for the special ministry of the Word and sacraments. "For although we are all equally priests," he declared, "still not all of us can serve and minister and preach."43 This ministry, in his judgment, is divinely instituted by Christ but is also certified and authorized by the congregation of believers. Luther saw no contradiction between these two derivations of the ministry -- one from above and the other from below, that is, from the priesthood of believers. In both cases the office is willed by God, though it is willed indirectly through the universal priesthood.
Luther was adamant that there must be a divine or inward call as well as the outward call from the congregation before one could become a minister of the Word. Because this ministry is ultimately based on the divine calling, it carries a heavy responsibility but also the assurance that the minister of the Word can prevail agaisnt the forces of sin and darkness through the power of the Spirit: "We who are in the ministry of the Word have this comfort, that we have a heavenly and holy office; being legitimately called to this, we prevail over all the gates of hell."44
What Luther did not sufficiently recognize is that there are other special ministries that might also require special rites of commissioning, for instnace, evangelists, healers, deacons and deaconesses, sisters and brothers of mercy, and so on. At the same time, these should be regarded as auxiliary ministries to the ministry of the Word, since the latter is a ministry of apostolic leadership.
One danger in holding to a special ministry of the Word is sacerdotalism. This means that the minister comes to be viewed as a mediator between man and God. His office is seen as necessary for people to make contact with God. He is also regarded as more holy than other Christians by virtue of being nearer to God. Sometimes in the circles of sacerdotalism the priest or pastor is likened to the
neck and Christ to the head. The laypeople represent the lower parts of the body and cannot reach the head apart from the mediation of the priest. Sacerdotalism is present not only in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity but also in the New Apostolic church, the Catholic Apostolic church, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, all of which maintain a special apostolic or priestly order. Admittedly, such tendencies can also be detected in the churches of the Reformation.
Luther sought to guard against sacerdotalism by maintaining that the pastor is not elevated above the congregation but is responsible to the congregation as its shepherd and overseer. His primacy is one of service, not moral superiority. His representative activity does not exclude but instead includes the cooperation of the community. Paul Althaus gives this interpretation of Luther's position:
The call to an office in the church does not convey a special Christian status but only the special ministry of word and sacrament to the community. There is no indelible character. There is a distinction between the called clergyman and the layman only because of the office; not because of what they are but because of what they do.45
A quite different peril that can subvert the ministry of the Word is secularlism. Here the minister is no longer shepherd and herald but facilitator and counselor. His role is to build up the autonomous powers of the people who come to him for help, not to speak to them an authoritative Word from God. Langdon Gilkey, in advocating a new role for the pastor-priest, sees him as a peer rather than an authority figure. He is at best "an advisor and counselor in man's personal quest for fulfillment."46 The counselee himself replaces the priest "as the final judge with regard to his own spiritual health, i.e., as to what law applies and as to whether the law and its rule really help in this case."47 In th is new concept of priesthood there is "little authority and practically no moral objectivity but possibly new and greater opportunities for real ministry."48
In some circles today, both Catholic and Protestant, the gifts that are most prized in a minister are personnel management and skills in human relations.49 Under the pervasive influence of the business mentality, efficiency in administrative and financial matters is given more weight than biblical fidelity. The rules of the ministerial game are being proficient and being friendly but avoiding any show of religious particularity or dogmatism. Ivan Illich makes this caustic comment: "Clerical technocracy is even further
from the gospel than priestly aristocracy. And we may come to recognize that efficiency corrupts Christian testimony more subtly than power."50
Thomas Torrance sees a new Protestant sacerdotalism emerging that replaces the humanity of Christ by the humanity of the minister and obscures the Person of Christ by the personality of the minister.51 It is the dynamism of the minister that mediates the Word of God to man and mediates the worship of oman to God. The sermon is no longer an exposition of the Word of God but a presentation of the opinions of the minister. What we find, Torrance observes, are psychological priests. The therapeutic counseling of the minister has displaced the pastoral ministry of Christ.
Our position is that the pastor is an authority figure and a servant figure at the same time. He has been placed in his role by Christ himself through the inward calling of the Holy Spirit, though the congregation must recognize and ratify what Christ has done. The pastor must not lord it over the congregation but be an example of patience and humility. He must give guidance and direction when necessary. He is a resource person to be sure, but even more he is a spiritual director and confessor. He must not be detached from his people but must identify himself with their trials and sufferings. He must intercede for them daily in prayer. He must preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), and this entails exposing false teaching as well as expounding the truth (Titus 1:10-14). He must be a model of holiness in keeping with his greater responsibility (Titus 2:7). He must "exhort and reprove with all authority" (Titus 2:15), though he must speak the truth always in the spirit of love (1 Cor. 16:14; 1 John 3:18). He must seek to please God above all and not his congregation, but he must place no unnessary stumbling blocks before his people that might prevent them from accepting and following the Gospel. He will be willing to share authority with gifted laypersons of the congregation, who are also preists, but he will not abdicate authority by simply parroting the prejudices of his people. His aim is not to help people adjust to their social and cultural environment but to direct them to God so that they will then be inspired to change their environment. He will see his role as a shepherd rather than a fellow seeker, since he has been entrusted with a commission to make known the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:17, 18). At the same time he will also see himself as a servant who will subordinate himself to his people as an ambassador of Christ and an agente of reconciliation.
Such a pastor will inspire those in his care also to be priests, to be intercessors and witnesses to the truth at home and at work. He will welcome reproof from his fellow Christians so long as it is done in charity and is based on Scripture. A church directed by such a pastor will indeed be a holy priesthood where all share in some way in the priestly and kingly and prophetic ministry of Christ. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be in evidence not only in the pupit but in Sunday school classes, youth groups, and prayer and Bible study groups. The laity will be the missionary arm of the church, for it is through their outreach in the community that the spiritually lost will hear the good news and will be brought into the worship and life of the church.
Toward a Catholic Balance
In offering a constructive statement of the doctrine of the church and its ministry we must do justice to both cultic and charismatic dimensions if we are to remain true to our biblical and catholic heritage. In Protestantism there has been a noticeable tendency to downplay the institutional side of the church in favor of charisma and koinonia.
The Lutheran church historian Rudolf Sohm propounded a typology of religious association which graphically depicts how the original religious enthusiasm of the church was eroded by a creeping ritualism and formalism. While New Testament Christianity was characterized by a dominance of spirit (charisma), in early Catholicism charisma was transferred to the office of the hierarchy. Then later we see the extension and transfer of charisma from office to thing (sacrament). Whereas in the New Testament church the Spirit was a moving reality in the life and experience of believers, it finally became objectified in the sacraments.
Contrasting the church as an institution with the ecclesia, a communion of persons, Emil Brunner declares that the ecclesia alone is the body of Christ and that it alone was given "the promise of invincibility and eternal durability."52 The church ideally should be the vessel of the ecclesia, but too often it presents an obstacle to the growth of the ecclesia through sacramentalism and sacerdotalism.
James Dunn too emphasizes the charismatic over the cultic and institutional aspects of the church: "Christian community is not primarily sacramental in character; baptism and the Lord's Supper express community and thereby consolidate community, but they neither create it nor do they form its basis; as all Christians as members of a Christian assembly are charismatics, so all have immediate access to grace, all may be the channel and instrument of grace to others."53 He maintains that Paul conceives of authority in dynamic terms, not in terms of office or fixed form.
While there is much truth in the traditional Protestant criticism of ecclesiasticism, we must nevertheless recognize that the church is an institution as well as a communion of persons, that it entails structure and cultus as well as charisma. It is not historically accurate to portray the New Testament church as simply a spontaneous fellowship of love directed by charasmatic leaders. Jesus Himself instituted an apostolic office through his commissioning of the twelve, adn Paul upheld permanent ministries of apostles, pastors, evangelists, and teachers, though he also saw these ministries as gifts or charisms and not simply as offices (Ephesians 4:11). In the pastoral epistles it is quite evident that the ministry is regarded as a special office in the church, though again the charismatic dimension is not denied. We cannot go along with Ernst Kasemann's contention that Paul's theor5y of order does not rest on "offices, institutions, ranks and dignities." Kasemann maintains that, in the Pauline view, "authority resides only within the concrete act of ministry as it occurs."54 But this overlooks the fact that Paul considered his own ministry a divine office (Romans 1:1-5; Col. 1:25; 2 Tim. 1:11) and that his polemic against the Corinthian church was intended to bring religious enthusiasm under the direction of apostolic and ecclesiastical authority.
Hans Kung in his book "Why Priests? is more Protestant than Catholic in his critique of ecclesiasticism. He maintains that "there can be no office among the followers of Jesus that is constituted simply through law and power corresponding to the office of state potentates; nor can there be an office that is constituted simply through knowledge and dignity corresponding to the office of the scribes."55 Yet Jesus himself likened his ministers to scribes who have trained for the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:52). He also declared: "I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify ..." (Matthew 23:34).
Thomas Torrance presents a quite different view. Far from thinking that the priesthood of the church is dissolved in the general body of believers, he holds with Calvin that the priesthood of the church is "imaged in the midst of the community of believers in the form of a divinely instituted ministry, an episcopate held in a capacity by
those called and ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacraments."56 This episcopal order is "placed within the Body and partakes of its inner cohesion in mutual service and love, but at the same time it involves diversities of function and distinctions in order, through which Christ exhibits Himself as actually present in the Church as its only Bishop and Master."57
Von Allmen insists that there is only one authentic ministry, namely, that of the Word and sacraments, and this has its basis not in the priesthood of believers but in the Messianic commissioning of the apostles.58 The ministry, he contends, is based on a special grace or calling and is not merely a matter of how the church organizes itself. This contrasts with the view of many Catholic scholars today who are thinking of the pastoral office no longer in terms of its sacral-consecratory function but of its socio-ecclesial function. The role of the preist is to coordinate and integrate the various charisms in such a way as to build up the community of faith.
Avery Dulles is critical of this tendency to see the special priesthood as simply a mode of service in the church rather than a sacramental of ecclesiastical office.59 Yet he is also cognizant of the dangers in the sacral concept of the priesthood which "can lead to a superstitious exaltation of the priest as a person possessed of divine or magical powers." Such a person, he recognizes, can "become removed from the rest of the community and surrounded with an aura of cultic holiness more redolent of paganism than of Christianity."60
We believe that Luther has preserved the right catholic balance in seeing the pastoral office as derived both from its divine institution by Christ and from the priesthood of believers. We cannot go along with Von Allmen and Torrance in regarding ministerial representation as issuing only from above downward and not also from below upward. In our view the ministry is a mode of service within the priesthood of believers, but it is at the same time a service that entails authority and responsibility over the whole community of faith. It derives its authority from God himself and yet through the priesthood of believers. The ministry of the Word and sacraments must not be downgraded (as in a spiritualistic egalitarianism), but it must also not be unduly elevated (as in sacerdotalism).
We see the church as a sacramental and ecclesiastical institution as well as a charismatic fellowship of love. Charisma must be directed and channeled by the pastoral or ecclesiastical office, though we recognize that too often the clerics extinguish rather than fan the flame of the Holy Spirit.
An authentically catholic church is ia church under the Word, and this means that the clerical office is also under the Word. Every Christian layman as a fellow priest has the right and obligation to challenge his ecclesiastical superiors if they stray from the clear teaching of the Word to bear on the life of the church. The gifts of the Spirit are bestowed in order to draw us closer to the Word and not to go our independent ways.
Too often the priesthood of all believers has been geared to the interest of religious individualism rather than to the service of the corporate missionary witness of the church. We need to recover the biblical and catholic doctrine of the royal priesthood of the church, and Luther can here be a sure and safe guide. Paul Althaus contrasts Luther's position with that of later individualistic Protestantism:
Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the "Protestant" sense of the Christian's freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather he constantly emphasizes the Christian's evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.61
The priesthood of all believers is based on the sovereign authority of Jesus Christ as the sole head and ruler of the church, not on the consensus of the people. Mark Noll https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Noll rightly points out that Luther "replaced the role of the oligarchical few, not, as we in America are inclined to believe, with the rule of the democratic many, but with the rule of the eternal Son of God who was active in all true members."62 The current practice in Protestant denominations of running the church through committees genearlly leaves out the one thing needful, the subjection of group consensus to the authority of the Word of God as revealed in Holy Scripture. One consecrated believer who truly wrestles with the Scripture in order to discover God's will may indeed be closer to the truth than his peers who are more concerned with the survival and advancement of the church as an institution. The priesthood of all believers does not necessarily mean majority rule but obedience to the sovereign rule of the one high preist, Jesus Christ. Democratic methods may indeed be preferable to oligarchical dictation in determining the will of God, but these methods themselves must be subjected to the judgment of a still higher criterion, the voice of the living Christ speaking in Scripture.
The keys of binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19) have been given to the
whole church to be exercised first of all and especially by those in the office of pastoral leadership. Yet every Christian as a priest has access to these keys. Every Christian can hear confession of sin and grant absolution on the basis of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in all the members of his body.
While the priesthood "is common to all Christians, not so is the ministry," declares the Second Helvetic Confession, rightly reminding us that the priesthood and the ministry of the Word are not the same.63 And yet it goes too far when it affirms that the two are "very different from one another" (italics added).64 All Christians are called to the apostolate and not just those who are commissioned to oversee congregations and preach the Word publicly. All Christians are summoned to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the world and the advancement of the kingdom of God in the world. Every Christian should be an evangelist, in the sense that he is placed under the divine obligation to give testimony to his faith before the world.
The creeds of the Reformation were accustomed to say that the two hallmarks of the church are the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. But even more fundamental is the urgency of omission, and this should entail not simply correct preaching but preaching with a zeal for souls. In this perspective baptism is conceived not simply as entrance into the body of the church but as dedication to the conversion of the world. Confirmation then becomes not merely a renewal of baptismal vows but the ordination of the laity to the apostolate. The Lord's Supper is not just a memorial of Christ's past sacrifice but a participation in his present intercession for the sins of the world. Charismatic gifts are to be accepted not only because of their aid in personal and mutual edification but also, and above all, because of their indispensability in fulfilling the great commission.65 By these gifts the Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, and this indeed is the vocation of the holy priesthood of believers. The priesthood of believers cannot make reparation for sin, for this has been taken care of by Christ, but it can and must bear witness to the once for all atonement for sin. And it does this through intercessory prayer, sacrificial deeds of kindness and mercy, bringing assurance of pardon for sin, and missionary preaching. Through the charismatic gifts available to us may we rededicate ourselves to this high and holy calling.
1. In the words of Henri Daniel-Rops: "The priesthood had thus come to form an exclusive caste, very conscious of itself and full of contempt for others, a caste to which one had to belong .... before one could pride oneself ... on one's noble lineage -- a caste, furthermore, that was often hated by the common people and the lower clergy." In Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, trans. Patrick O'Brian (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962), p. 422.
2. Hans Kung, Why Priests? trans. Robert C. Collins (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972), p. 54.
3. Roy J. Defarrari, trans. Saint Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), p. 298.
4. Avery Dulles, Models of the Church (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974), p. 153.
5. Works of Bonaventure, IV, trans. Jose de Vinck, (Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966), p. 256.
6. Hans Kung, The Church, p. 378.
7. Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), p. 502.
8. Ibid. ("Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests" Ch. I, Art. 2), p. 534.
9. Ibid., p. 535.
10. "Decree on the Ministry," ch. II, art. 9, p. 552.
11. Kung, Why Priests? pp. 41, 42.
12. Kung, The Church, p. 380.
13. Luther's Works, vol. 40, (St. Louis: Concordia, 1958), p. 19.
14. Martin Luther, W.A. 12, 308.
15. Luther's Works, vol. 40, pp. 34-35.
16. Cyril Eastwood states Luther's view in this way: "The Christian is a member of the universal priesthood by baptism, but he is given a special task within that priesthood by the call of God which is confirmed by the congregation." Note that the call to the ministry comes directly from God, but it takes effect only in the priesthood. It is authorized first by God but then also by the priesthood in that the latter must ratify and confirm the divine call. Cyril Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers (MInneapolis: Augsburg, 1960), p. 44.
17. Bertram Lee Woolf, Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, Vol. I, p. 366.
18. See Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), pp. 316-318.
19. "We can offer nothing, until we offer to him ourselves as a sacrifice; which is done by denying ourselves. Then, afterwards follow prayers, thanksgiving, almsdeeds, and all the duties of religion." Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. and ed. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1855), p. 65.
20. Ulrich Zwingli, Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God, trans. G.W. Bromiley. In Library of Christian Classics, vol. 24 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), p. 88.
21. See T.W. Manson, Ministry and Priesthood: Christ's and Ours (Richmond, Va." John Knox Press, 1958), p. 37.
22. Philip Schaff, ed., The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3 (New York: Harper, 1919), p. 421.
23. There is only a scant reference to "the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren" in the Smalcald Articles (1537), and this hardly does justice to the biblical concept of the priesthood of all believers. See Theodore G. Tappert, trans. & ed. The Book of Concord (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), p. 310.
24. Philip Spener, Pia Desideria, p. 94.
25. Ibid., p. 92.
26. Ibid., p. 89.
27. Cited in Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers, p. 214.
28. See Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 3, a, pp. 165-274.
29. Karl Barth, Protestant Theology int he Nineteenth Century (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1973), pp. 643 ff.
30. In D. Elton Trueblood, The People Called Quakers (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 110.
31. David du Plessis, The Spirit Bade Me Go (Plainfield, N.J. : Logos, 1970), p. 106.
32. Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, trans. John Oman (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 175.
33. Ibid., p. 153.
34. In Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 159 ff.
35. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 118-119.
36. Ibid., p. 109.
37. He declares that the preaching office "is established in the congregation and not by the congregation, and at the same time it is with the congregation." Bonhoeffer, Ethics, ed. Eberhard Bethge, trans. Neville Horton Smith (New York: Macmillan, 1963) p. 294.
38. Kung, Why Priests?, p. 90.
39. Kung, The Church, p. 439.
40. Ibid., p. 440.
42. "The apostolic succession of pastors is not something that occurs automatically or omechanically through the laying-on of hands. Faith is a prerequisite and a condition; it must be active in the spirit of the apostles. This succession does not exclude the possibility of error or failure, and so must be tested by the faithful as a whole." Kung, The Church, p. 442.
43. Bertram Lee Woolf, ed. Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, Vol. 1, p. 367. Cf.: "Certainly all Christians are priests. But not all are pastors, for beyond the fact that a man is a Christian and a priest, he must also have an office and a parish that he has been commanded to serve." Luther, W.A. 31 I, 211.
44. Luther's Works, vol. 26, p. 20.
45. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, p. 328.
46. Langdon Gilkey, Catholicism Confronts Modernity (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), p. 76.
48. Ibid., p. 78.
49. One observer comments: "Priestly emphasis on mediating the Holy is giving way to models taken from education ('resource person'), science ('catalyst') medicine ('enabler') and sports ('team builder')." JOhn Conrad Wilkey, The Meaning of Ordination in the United Methodist Church as It Relates to the MInistry of the Laity, unpublished Doctor of Ministry thesis, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, 1977, p. 80.
50. Ivan Illich, Celebration of Awareness (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1970), p. 75.
51. Thomas Torrance, "Justification." In Christianity Divided, ed. Daniel J. Callahan et al. [pp. 283-305], p. 302.
52. Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, trans. Harold Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), p. 117.
53. James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster Pres, 1975), p. 298.
54. Ernst Kasemann, Essays on New Testament Themes, trans. W. J. Montague (London: SCM Press, 1964), p. 83.
55. Kung, Why Priests?, p. 39.
56. Thomas Torrance, Royal Priesthood (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1955), p. 92.
58. From a lecture in Dubuque Theological Seminary Chapel, February 27, 1969. Cf. Jean-Jacques Van Allmen, Le Saint Ministere (Neuchatel: Editions Delachaux et Niestle, 1968), esp. pp. 55 ff.
59. Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 156.
60. Ibid., p. 158.
61. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, p. 314.
62. Mark A. Noll, "Believer-Priests in the Church: Luther's View," Christianity Today, vol. 18, no. 2 (October 26, 1973), [pp. 4-8], p. 7.
63. Arthur C. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, Second Helvetic Confession, ch. 18, p. 271.
65. While Paul, in his treatment of the charismatic gifts, emphasizes their value in building up the body of Christ, Luke is concerned with how they aid in the mission of the church to the world. The gift of tongues, for example, is associated by Luke with inner release and endowment for missionary service, whereas in Paul its purpose is said to be personal edification and thereby only indirectly building up the church. It should be notedm, however, that Paul also shows how the gifts relate to mission and evangelism (cf. 1 Cor. 14:24, 25; Romans 15:18, 19; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4; 2 Tim. 1: 6-8). In the fuller perspective of Paul's teaching it is necessary to build up the church so that the church can then give a united and effectual witness before the world.
He has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13
And if thou be not in the kingdom of Christ, it is certain that thou belongest to the kingdom of Satan, which is this evil world. Martin Luther
Goodness is a realm; and there is a realm of evil. Each is spiritually against the other. If the other world has a king, there is also a prince of this world; and there can be no peace except in a complete victory, so that such a war shall never be again. P.T. Forsyth
The fundamental biblical opposition is not between flesh and Spirit, creature and Creator, but between the Creator of the flesh and its destroyer, between God and the devil, Christ and Satan, the Holy Spirit and the Unholy. Philip S. Watson
The Biblical Testimony
Biblical religion speaks of two kingdoms in irrevocable conflict with one another -- the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, also known as the kingdom of Satan. This dualistic vision runs throughout the Scriptures, though the two kingdoms go under many different names. This is not a metaphysical dualism, as in Zoroastrianism, since the devil is seen as a fallen angel, superior to man but greatly inferior to God. Yet it signifies a moral dualism which recognizes that evil is the antithesis to good and taht there can be no compromise between these two forces.1
In the Old Testament the two kingdoms antithesis is already evident in Genesis 1, where light is separated from darkness. Some medieval theologians see this as implying the separation of good and bad angels. In the Garden of Eden the serpent typifies the antigod force which is already active in the good creation and which provides man
with the occasion for sin. It is prophesied that the Messiah will crush the head of the serpent; that is, he will overthrow its dominion, though not withiout being wounded in the struggle (Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 27:1; cf. Romans 16:20).
In ancient Hebraic tradition the source of evil was both the watery chaos and the personification of this chaos in the dragon called Leviathan We read that the chaos appeared at the beginning of the creation (Gen. 1:1-2) and was prior to the formation of the earth and life on the earth; yet this chaos or darkness was definitely not co-eternal with God and, indeed, did not exist apart from the will of God (cf. Isaiah 45:7). In the Genesis account the tehom (the deep) is the philological equivalent of Tiamat, the personified chaos monster in the Babylonian myth. Leviathan, derived from the Canaanite Lotan, was related to both the Babylonian Tiamat and the Greek Hydra. It was also associated with Behemoth, a spisrit of the desert, and even more closely with the sea monster Rahab as well as with that primal symbol of evil, the serpent (cf. Isaiah 27:1; Amos 9:3; Job 26: 13). In Hebraic throught the darkness and its personification in Leviathan signified not just recalcitrance and deficiency but destructive creativity (cf. Job 3:5, 6; Daniel 7:7). In Job 41: 33-34 Leviathan is pictured as the king of all the sons of pride.
It is difficult to pinpoint the precise time in Israel's theological history when Leviathan become identified with Satan, the angelic messenger of death who became God's adversary, but this identification is significant in the concept of the two kingdoms, since it indicates a rupture within the order of God's creation itself. It means that the powers of darkness contain within themselves the light of God's good creation, that they have a heavenly origin.2 In the Apocalypse of John the dragon, the serpent, the devil, and Satan are all equated (Rev. 12:9; 20:2; cf. 11:7; 13:1 ff.).
Israel was originally depicted in the Old Testament as the elect people of God called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:6). The adversary was portayed as the kingdoms of this world the "kingdoms of the idols" (Isaiah 10:10). Slowly but surely it dawned upon the prophets of Israel that God's kingdom is a spiritual one and that Israel, like every other nation, stands under the judgment of this kingdom. It was recognized that the kingdom of God is an "everlasting kingdom" (Daniel 4:3) and that it "rules over all" (Psalm 103:19). That Israel would indeed be taken up into this spiritual kingdom came to be an eschatological hope and promise. God will realize his purposes through the people of Israel, and when his work is fulfilled they chall be called "the city of righteousness, the faithful city" (Isaiah 1:26; cf. 9:7). This city
will be one without walls: the Lord will be a wall of fire around her and the glory in her midst (Zech. 2:5).3
In Daniel's vision of the four beasts (Daniel 7), we witness the rise and fall of four empires and then the coming of a fifth kingdom typified by a human figure, the Son of Man. The beasts emerge out of the sea, the evil domain of chaos (Daniel 7:2-3). The fifth kingdom is the kingdom of God incorporated in the people of Israel. At the end time God will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed and that will break in pieces the kingdoms of this world, and it shall stand forever (Daniel 2:44).
In the developing theology of the Old Testament, it was recognized that behind the kingdoms of men is a strategy of evil, a dominion of darkness that directs the destiny of nations. Exodus 12:23 refers to an angelic destroyer who is nonetheless under God, the supreme power, and is used by God.4 Job spokes of a "king of terrors" who drives man from light into darkness (Job 18:14-18; 41:33-34). 5 Isaiah contrasts the "city of righteousness" (1:26) with a "city of chaos" (24:10)6 governed by the hosts of heaven (Isaiah 24:21). Daniel envisages angelic princes behind the kingdoms of this world: the good prince Michael is the protector of the Jews, whereas an evil angel is the defender of Persia (Daniel 10:13). While the immediate reference in Isaiah 14:12-14 is to the downfall of an earthly tyrant, we have an unmistakable allusion to Day Star or Lucifer, the fallen angel of Ugaritic mythology; though he aspires to be God, he shall finally be thrust down into the pit, and his power shall be taken from him (cf. Ezek. 28).7 The pseudepigraphal book of Enoch also speaks of the rebellion and overthrow of disobedient angels (10:4-6, 11-12; 54: 3-5; cf. Gen. 6:1-4; Jude 6; Rev. 9:1).
The idea of a kingdom of darkness led by an angelic adversary of God and man is very pronounced in the intertestamental and New Testament periods.8 God has set up his kingdom in the midst of a fallen world, but antigod powers, angels of violence, have tried to overthrow it by force (Matthew 11:12).9 In attacking the kingdom of Christ the demonic powers sealed their ultimate destruction. Yet where Christ is not acknowledged as King and Lord, these powers continue to hold sway over the world (1 John 5:19). Satan, indeed, is called the "god" and "prince" of this world (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31). Through his cross and resurrection victory Jesus Christ "disarmed the principalities and powers" (Col. 2:15; cf. 1:13), but they still wield a modicum of power "through man's continuing sin), though now as usurpers. All their rights and privileges have been taken from them, but they continue to wage war, even though they have been defeated and dethroned. Paul confesses that our battle is not with flesh and blood but with "the world
rulers of this present darkness ... the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). Jesus Christ, through his resurrection, has bound the prince of darkness so that he cannot prevent the missionary expansion of Christ's church (cf. Luke 11:21; Matthew 12:29), though he still possesses destructive power within his own domain, the sphere of unbelief. St. Augustine likened the devil to a mad dog which is chained: it can still instill fear through its barking, but it cannot harm those who are united with Jesus Christ and are thereby out of its reach (cf. Col. 2:20).
We are told that at the end of the age Satan will again be loosed to persecute
VI. Two Kingdoms
For to us a child
The Struggle With Liberalism
VII. The Church's Spiritual Mission
For our sake
The Biblical Understanding
Evangelical theology contends .
VIII. The Personal Return of Christ
No one can come
The Gift of Grace in Biblical Perspective
The Scriptures are
IX. Heaven and Hell
And he believed
The Meaning of Faith
The Scriptures make
X. How Distinctive Is Evangelicalism?
And he believed
The Meaning of Faith
The Scriptures make
XI. Toward the Recovery of Biblical Faith
The Outlook for Evangelicalism
Essentials of Evangelical Theology : Volume
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