Are Some Lutherans Antinomian? Yes, But Genuine Lutheranism is Not!
Yes, some Lutherans are antinomian. Witness the actions of the ELCA in formally embracing as acceptable and good, what God’s Word has declared to be sin and wrong. Witness the rhetoric we hear among so-called “conservative” and “confessional” Lutherans who make excuses for sin, who shrug it off, who bristle at any talk in a sermon of the way Christians are to live. I recall a conversation with a fellow pastor who told me about certain incidents involving fellow Lutheran pastors that shocked me. The excuse made for bad behavior was that they were enjoying the “freedom” of the Gospel. Such “freedom” be cursed to hell where it belongs and from which it comes! It is only the “freedom” pigs have to wallow in mud and their own filfth.
We Lutherans are rightly criticized by other Christians for a certain antinomian tendency among us. And it is not merely a perception based on their faulty theology, it is reality. When we still think it is appropriate to sell and promote T-shirts that say “Weak on sanctification” and make excuses for it, and about it, and when we praise public teachers who like to gas on about how they are “antinomians” and make it a butt of jokes and laughter, when we allow ourselves to grow lazy and indifferent when it comes to holiness of living, we are trifling with the Word of God. The likes of Werner Elert and Gerhard Forde have not been helpful to us on these issues. We have been preaching comfort into the ears of people, and avoiding telling them the consequences of being a Christian. I’ll say it again, and it always irritates some people when I do, but the reality is that there are those who have been so “comforted” that they think nothing of engaging in sin and pursuing vile activities, all the while appealing to their Baptism, or being “free in Christ” or being “Gospel and Christ-centered.” I have had actually had pastors tell me we should not quote St. Paul’s letters in our sermons when he talks about good works, because Paul’s letters were never intended as sermons, or that a sermon should never end with any kind of exhortation to do good works, because that would be a confusion of Law and Gospel. I’m not making this up!
Such antinomian and anti-holy living attitudes are not Lutheran. Period. No way. No how.
“Not all are Christians who boast of faith. Christ has shed His blood. We are justified by faith alone without works. You say, “I believe this.” The devil, you say! You have learned the words you have heard the same way mockingbirds learn to repeat things. Where are the fruits demonstrating that you truly believe? You remain in sins; you are a usurer and more. Surely Christ did not die and shed His blood for the sins that you are intent on committing continually, but so that He might destroy the works of the devil [1 John 3:8]. If you were formerly a usurer, say, like Zacchaeus
— Martin Luther, Sermon for the First Sunday after Trinity on 1 John 4:16-21, Preached in St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg, Germany June 7, 1545. Translated by Christopher Boyd Brown. Unpublished translation. Pr 2002; WA 49:80-87. Copyright Concordia Publishing House, 2010.
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:12-14