This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Lutheran Pastor Critiques The Race Set Before Us

A Lutheran pastor from Dearborn, Michigan, nicknamed rodboomboom, wrote the most recent brief review of The Race Set Before Us on the web page. Here is the review.

This book has many fine attributes to recommend it: it seeks to be based on exegesis only; it seeks to assure all believers of their eternal salvation; it believes in the election of believers; and it rebuts many of the false teachings on this important doctrine; and it engages with the various competing positions.

However, as a Lutheran I must state that it misses the point with its unique position of denying any possibility of apostasy by primarily confessing the warning passages are there to keep believers in the faith and running towards the finish line. This would necessarily mean that God uses the Law (since these are what the referenced passages in the book are) to keep people believing and saved. The Gospel is what keeps people saved, never the Law. Thus the Calvinistic error of law-gospel-law is evidenced. For those interested in what I'm referring here to, see David Scaer's excellent new book from Luther Academy: "Law & Gospel and the Means of Grace."

Further, what is a very necessary discussion of this doctrine is omitted in this book, the many passages which speak of salvation as the forgiveness of one's sins. When looked at from this major Biblical way of speaking of salvation, one has to go through all of life with one's sins forgiven by faith in the gospel. Faith at any one time will forgive sins, but one needs to continue in this faith to have one's sins forgiven at the end. This would have been an enlightening discussion to see how these authors would handle the many numerous passages on forgiveness of sins, but they chose not to.

Also, it is not clear what their stance is on double predestination. If they hold to the Classic Calvinist position here, then there is a substantial problem with God being responsible for sin and evil.

The most telling line in the review is this: "However, as a Lutheran I. . . ." I have many books in my library that come from the pens of Lutherans. I have read much of Martin Luther's works. I have read Franz August Otto Pieper's Christian Dogmatics. Despite all my reading, no one has provided any convincing biblical evidence to persuade me of what rodboomboom claims in his critique of The Race Set Before Us. In other words, no one has given me any biblical warrant to embrace the notion that biblical warnings against apostasy and admonitions to persevere in Christ Jesus "necessarily mean that God uses the Law (since these are what the referenced passages in the book are) to keep people believing and saved. The Gospel is what keeps people saved, never the Law."

I confess, though the criticism makes logical Lutheran sense to me, it makes no biblical sense to me at all. Honestly, I find that this aspect of Lutheranism, which forms the essential core of Lutheran theology, has no biblical warrant whatsoever. It strikes me as thoroughly wrongheaded but also powerfully destructive to perseverance of faith. For Lutheranism really does set faith in opposition to deeds by insisting that even New Testament admonitions and warnings partake of the law and not of the gospel.

As for rodboomboom's criticism concerning forgiveness of sin, we actually do address the subject in chapter two. Perhaps rodboomboom did not notice because he was looking for a Lutheran way of addressing the topic, as his criticism suggests.


Glenn Leatherman said...

Can you recomend a good resource to improve my udnerstanding of the difference in a biblical understanding the Law and the Gospel and how Lutherans see it? Am I correct in saying that Lutherans completely seperate the law from the Gospel?

A. B. Caneday said...

I don't recall a succinct presentation of the Lutheran view of Law and Gospel. I would venture to guess that the book commended by rodboomboom, David Scaer's Law & Gospel and the Means of Grace, would be as good as any.

Scott A. Fulks said...

Dr. Caneday,
I have really appreciated your book and it has greatly helped me in my own understanding of the 'already,not yet'.
In a paper on Colossians 1:20 and its relationship to the doctrine of reconciliation, I am wrestling with the concept of actualized or future cosmic reconciliation. In a short note in your book regarding this verse, you (or Dr. Schreiner) note that this should be understood as already accomplished, but lacking the room to explain the argument. Because all powers are apparently still just as much at work as pre-cross times, and because the entire creation continues to grown from the effects of sin, what reasons should keep me from thinking that Col. 1:20 is not part of the 'not yet'? Could it not be that because the cross' future work is inevitable, Paul wrote this passage in the present tense? I would greatly appreciate your insights and thoughts. Thank you!


A. B. Caneday said...


I am sorry about my delayed reply. Whew! I've allowed myself to become excessively busy. I will need to rectify this.

Confession: I did not write the note to which you refer on p. 71 of TRSBU. Hence, I do not share the idea that "the reconciliation here is still in the past." I am persuaded that the reconciliation, mentioned in Col. 1:20, though wholly grounded in and inaugurated in Christ's sacrificial death, is future in its fullness and consummation.

For reasons that you state, I am persuaded that the passage is speaking of the "not yet" consummation of all things. In my estimation, the aorist tense of ἀποκαταλλάξαι is no obstacle to understanding it as future referring or future oriented. We need to keep in mind that "time reference" in non-indicative moods is not derived from the verbal moods employed but from other markers or indicators in the text. Given the fact that ἀποκαταλλάξαι is an infinitive, expressing purpose, is, however, significant.

Thus, I concur with you that Paul conceives of the cross of Christ as effectual so that the future reconciliation of all things will inevitably come to pass.

I trust that this will be helpful. Again, I am sorry for my delay.