Romans 6

This review of Romans 6 is provided by Steve (The Old Adam)
background – I’m a Lutheran laymen who felt the weight of the shackles of my own spiritual project and religious wandering fall off when I heard the free gospel in it’s purity and gift of Christ handed to me, free of charge, no strings attached

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

This is pretty much an extension of Chapter 5. Paul is just anticipating the question that some, or many of the Romans he was writing to might ask. Many of us ask the same thing. A question like that shows a misunderstanding of the gospel to start with, or maybe someone who really has not heard the gospel (hasn’t grabbed hold of) yet.

Now to the meat of the chapter:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Paul is speaking here about Holy Baptism.
Almost every time baptism is mentioned in the New Testament is it referring to water baptism (that’s what baptism means) and this is no exception. Paul does not use the words ‘symbolizes’, or ‘represents’ (he knew those words), but he instead is referring to something actually taking place (spiritually). “who have been baptized…”, “have been buried with him…” , “walk in newness of life”, crucified with him”.

This is death and resurrection language, which is baptism, in a nutshell. God is the actor. He is the One who baptizes. Water and the Word of promise.

So, in baptism we receive the punishment for sin, as Christ received on the cross, and we receive the benefit of the resurrection, as Christ was raised from the tomb, so will we be raised with Him. And all of this we receive in Holy Baptism. None of it our decision, or our choice, but God’s decision for us. (This, grace before faith doctrine is especially highlighted in infant baptism…for what can a baby know or size up about God?)

In our baptisms, we have died to sin and death no longer has dominion over us (verses 7-11).
We are to consider ourselves dead to sin (even though we still sin), sin and death no longer have dominion over us as it no longer has dominion over Christ Jesus. We are baptized into Christ. As Paul states in Galatians 4, “we have put on Christ”. We are clothed in His righteousness.

I believe that this is exactly why Jesus commanded that we be baptized, and to baptize others. So that an objective Word of promise would come to us, completely outside of ourselves, so that we could look to this act of God, for us, and always trust in it, no matter what is going on inside our heads, our hearts, or in our daily struggle to live out the Christian faith.

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here, Paul encourages us to live as though we have already inherited the Kingdom, which we have, and not to give in to the sin that formerly ruled our lives and had dominion over us. He encourages us to live up to our great calling, and to realize that sin does not profit us anything.

Summary:
As a Lutheran, I believe this is the great teaching that keeps us centered on Christ Jesus and His promises, as opposed to placing ourselves at the center and engaging a religious ladder climbing project, or engaging in ‘Christian progression’.

I believe that the Lord realizes what we are all about (ourselves, basically) and has decided to take the justification project solely upon Himself. He has decided to forgive sinners, real sinners (“while we were yet Sinners, Christ died for us”), and to bring them into His family, and forgive them, and grant them eternal life out of His sheer mercy and kindness, not because of us, or in spite of us…but because He loves us, and desires to do so.

For me, Romans 6 is a wonderful gift from God, through Paul, to give me (us) the assurance of these truths, totally aside from what I see around me, or what I see or feel inside myself. It is the external Word made alive, in Word (preached and written) and in water…and also in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion.

Now, I do realize that this is a very radical view of baptism (and the Lord’s Supper), but this where I, and many of my Lutheran brethren have been anchored, thanks to Paul, Luther’s understanding of Paul, and many others who affirm this doctrine of grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense).

If some of you would be interested in hearing more of this Lutheran (and we believe, Pauline) view of Romans 6, and Baptism, click on this link to a recording of my pastor teaching on this very chapter of Romans. Romans-6___Baptism-and-free-will

Due to my work schedule and lack of access to a computer while I’m at work, I may not be able to field questions or challenges in a very timely fashion. Please bear with me and forgive me, and feel free to kick this around between yourselves, and I’ll poke my nose back in where I can.

Thanks.

– Steve Martin (the Old Adam)

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53 thoughts on “Romans 6

  1. “Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness”

    How do we stop letting sin exercise dominion, what sort of act is required?

    What is the process of presenting ourself to God? Is it baptism or something else?

    Paul speaks very figuratively here, does anybody have a practical description of this phenomena and what actually happens?

  2. How do we stop letting sin exercise dominion, what sort of act is required?

    What is the process of presenting ourself to God? Is it baptism or something else?

    Paul speaks very figuratively here, does anybody have a practical description of this phenomena and what actually happens?

    I don’t know whether Jared is just trying to debate or not, but I ahev to say that the questions he is asking were serious problems for me when I was grappling with Christianity. I liked Christianity a lot, but I was just not sure at all what the mysterious phenomena of “becoming a Christian” actually looked at. How would I know when I was converted? How would I know when I was Christ’s?

  3. I believe Paul is telling us that in our baptisms, our old sinful selves were put to death. A real death occured, albeit a spiritual one.

    But a real resurrection happened, also.

    So now, “we are to consider ourselves dead to sin” Sin has no dominion over us. We are reconciled to God through Christ’s death and resurrection, and baptism is the means by which God brings us into the death and life of Christ.

    So, instead of looking to ourselves and our feelings, or good works (or lack of them), we are to look at an objective event from outside of ourselves, where God acts…for us.

  4. I think sanctification is an ongoing process, not an event. Our old selves can be put to death but only through spiritual disciplines after grace enters our lives. Paul talks about still doing the things he hates and being unable to do the things he loves, so clearly, for Paul at least, the old self was not entirely dead at baptism.

    If you’re first adult decision is to be an adult, I think in a similar way your decision to be a disciple of Jesus is the first marker of a disciple. That begins a process of becoming like Christ, but by no means makes you like Christ in one instant.

    Some people have “born again” experiences and their lives are immediately and inexplicably changed, from one minute to the next. That’s not the case for everyone though.

  5. Kullervo,

    My job is not to convince you of anything. My job (goal) is to just throw it out there. What happens after that is not my responsibility.

    Tim,

    I do agree that the sanctification process is an ongoing process. But us Lutheran types believe it is God who does it. “He who began a good work in you, you will bring it to completion.” And we believe, as Paul writes in Romans 6, that we (our old selves) are put to death in baptism. He says “we are to consider ourselves dead to sin.” For the purpose of righteousness, we have been put to death, and raised again to new life. Sure, we still sin, but that is not the truth about us in God’s eyes, for righteousness sake.

    Experience cannot be trusted. St. Paul tells us that “the devil can come to us all dressed up as an angel of light”. We walk by faith, and not by sight. That is why an objective Word that comes to us from outside of ourselves, from God, can be trusted, in all places and at all times. This is Holy Baptism for Lutherans, and others that believe it.

    Thanks!

  6. Theoldadam said:

    So now, “we are to consider ourselves dead to sin” Sin has no dominion over us. We are reconciled to God through Christ’s death and resurrection, and baptism is the means by which God brings us into the death and life of Christ.

    So after baptism, is it still possible to sin? I already know I don’t agree with you, but I am trying to understand your position better.

    Tim said:

    I think sanctification is an ongoing process, not an event. Our old selves can be put to death but only through spiritual disciplines after grace enters our lives.

    So is that justification by grace and sanctification by grace plus works?

    That’s obviously an oversimplification, but I don’t see Paul here (chapter 6) saying that the new life he is writing about is something that is automatic. In other words, I’m agreeing with you. They way I understand Paul is that a big part of what we need to do is that we have been freed from having sin dominate us — so what we need to do is claim that, so to speak, and live that way.

  7. “We are to CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin”. Paul knows that we will still sin, he says as much in the next chapter.

    But for righteousness sake, our sins are as far as the East is from the West in God’s eyes. For Jesus’ sake, He sees them no more. In Galatians, Paul says that “those of us who have been baptized have put on Christ.” We are clotherd in His righteousness.

    I believe that is why Jesus commanded Baptism.

    He never commanded us to do anything where He would not be present in it, for us.

  8. That is why an objective Word that comes to us from outside of ourselves, from God, can be trusted, in all places and at all times.

    That’s just, total and utter nonsense. You’re shifting the goalpost but the exact problem remains. If I should not trust my subjective experience of direct phenomena, why should I trust my subjective experience of the Text (which, even worse, is a subjective record of someone else’s subjective experience of direct phenomena)?

  9. It’s nonsense for you and those who do not believe, but there are many, many who believe it.

    You don’t believe, you don’t believe.

    It’s a good thing that none of this depends on you.

  10. A note to those not familiar with Lutheran theology:

    theoldadam is approaching this chapter from a very Lutheran perspective. I think this approach is a valid approach to Christianity, but it’s one of those things that makes sense only as a whole. If you try and understand only part of it, it starts looking kooky (kullervo calls it utter nonsense). When approached as a whole it has an internal logic and beauty. I’m not Lutheran, but I respect those who are.

    Non-denominational evangelicalism tends to be more buffet style, Lutheranism is more of a package deal. This means it’s hard to answer the questions that Jared C asked, without sounding kooky or sounding like you are dodging the questions.

    Take just one example when Kullervo says: “Why should I trust my subjective experience of the Text?” For a Lutheran, the Text/Word is an objective phenomenon associated with the text/words. Now, it looks like I just dodged the question, but from a Lutheran perspective it’s part of an interlocking approach to theology as to why that’s the case. Luther put a lot of stress on hearing the word, but for Lutherans this is not a subjective experience, because of the nature of the Word.

    I don’t expect this to convince anyone who isn’t a Lutheran, I’m just trying to convey why this may seem like people talking past each other.

  11. David Clark,

    “Luther put a lot of stress on hearing the word, but for Lutherans this is not a subjective experience, because of the nature of the Word.”

    Thanks, David.

    I appreciate the fact that you appreciate the different theological tact of Lutheranism (whether you agree with it or not).

  12. Tim said:

    Sanctification is absolutely based on works, but is impossible without grace.

    I agree.

    D.C. said:

    I think this approach is a valid approach to Christianity, but it’s one of those things that makes sense only as a whole. If you try and understand only part of it, it starts looking kooky

    I think you’re right.

    I’ve read through quite a few of TOA’s posts, and there’s a logical consistency to them. But if you can’t deal with one part of the whole (for example, the extreme downplaying of free will), you aren’t going to be able to deal with much of the rest either.

  13. I was not just trying to debate, I am trying to get a handle on the phenomenology here.

    Protestants interpret Paul to be talking about a phenomena of Christians attempting to be good that is somehow different from non-Christian attempts to be good. I am wondering if there is evidence of this.

    more later . .

  14. Reading Romans again makes me realize how unclear and/or figurative Paul is and how easily the text can lead to very different interpretations. Its no wonder there are so many Protestant denominations. It makes me wish we had something clearer to work with. . . . that said.

    Paul is referencing a particular phenomena here First he says we are not” under the law” but “under grace” which is partly where he loses me. I don’t know what he means in the real world except to say that we have some sort of blanket “get out of jail free card” for the sins we commit. An immunity from prosecution.

    But then he says:

    15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

    Here (v. 16) he seems to say that grace is not effective unless we decide to be slaves to righteousness, and who we are slaves to is determined by who we follow (sin or righteousness.)

    This raises three questions:

    What is the practical difference between being under grace and being under the law?

    If I don’t become a slave to righteousness, isn’t that evidence that grace is not going to save me because I am a slave to sin?

    And, finally, what is a slave to righteousness if other than a person who tries really hard to be virtuous?

  15. I think Paul is clear. Not only here, but in his other epistles, as well.

    Because of the cross, and our baptisms, there is absolutely nothing that we need do to obtain peace with God. We have it, not by our doing, but by Christ’s.

    So, now that we don’t have to do anything…then what will we do?

    He is encouraging us to live up to our high calling. Not that it benefits us anything toward righteousness, but because it is what we were made to do.

    It is good to try to be virtuous, but nothing is gained by it, nor needs to be gained by it…other than the benefit to the neighbor, which is always a good thing thing.

  16. I think that the very existence of so many different denominations, sects, and trains of thought held by those who claim to be non-denominational indicates that not only the Pauline epistles, but all of Scripture in general is not perfectly clear and straightforward. I cannot think of any religion that is entirely free of different trains of thought. Yet the majority will insist that either a) their way is the right way or b) no one way is the right way.

    TOA – you’ve said that Lutherans do not believe in free will. Is this the same thing as the Calvinism? I am not as well-versed in the different sects of Protestant theology, but I’ve always thought that it was chiefly Calvin who taught the concept of predestination in which God chooses those He will save, and it is not a choice made by us at all. Luther taught this, as well?

  17. I think those are very good questions, Jared C. Let me take a wack at them.

    “What is the practical difference between being under grace and being under the law?”

    If you’re under grace, you have the Holy Spirit in you and your thoughts and actions—at least some of them—are animated by the Spirit.
    If you’re under law, you do not have the Spirit (Jesus, grace) in you and are under (subjected to) the condemnation that breaking the law brings, that is, you are not accepted by God (although loved), and you are helplessly bound to the power of sin.

    “If I don’t become a slave to righteousness, isn’t that evidence that grace is not going to save me because I am a slave to sin?”

    Yes. Right on.
    Being a slave to righteousness means you are submitting to grace (Jesus in you, the Holy Spirit in you, the glory of God in you, the presence of God in you). (Trouble is, most of us, especially those who are new in the faith, have little sense of what the Spirit wants us to do from moment to moment—but God knows our hearts and knows we have made a decision to follow him through Christ and we’re sticking to that decision.)

    “And, finally, what is a slave to righteousness if other than a person who tries really hard to be virtuous?”

    Part of the problem here may be that as Americans we find it hard to imagine that there can be any kind of slavery that can be called good.
    In any case, it seems like you’re trying to define the difference between trying really hard as a believer and trying really hard as an unbeliever. This is not immediately easy for me to answer. . . .
    OK, lets suppose you’re trying really hard to overcome anger. My experience as a believer is that overcoming anger happens as I take a step towards God by reading the Bible and/or praying—both general prayer and specific prayer for God to help me overcome the anger.
    At times this first step toward God is really hard because the Spirit isn’t helping me much, but as I press in, the Spirit’s presence increases in my being. His presence in me actually gives me power to resist anger and as I resist it his presence actually pushes out the anger and replaces it with peace and satisfaction. As long as I stay close to God, the anger CAN’T live in me! And God is the one protecting me from anger, not me. That’s grace! In his strong presence, it’s easy to resist anger.

    SO, there is some working really hard by faith in pressing into God; then there is lots of rest. Unlike Mick Jaggar, I can GET SOME [guitar riff] SATISFACTION [guitar riff].

    For the unbeliever, it is always really hard because the unbeliever’s heart is not changed or empowered by the Spirit. All he has is his own strength.

    Does that make any sense? Sorry it was so long.

  18. Alex,

    Both Lutheranism and Calvinism deny free-will, but since Calvinists have a different understanding of the reality of God in the Sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) they (Calvinists) fall back on, or look to their good works, or seriousness, as proof that they are of the elect. Lutherans look to the external Word (God’s promises), and not to their works, their seriousness, or their feelings.

    Luther did teach and Lutherans do teach the doctrine of predestination and election, as well, because it is biblical and folllows the doctrine of original sin, and desire to be a god unto one’s self and a non-desire to seek the Living God.

    Calvinists teach a doctrine of double predestination. That God chooses who is saved, and He also chooses who goes to hell. Lutherans believe that if we are saved, God gets all the credit… and if we go to hell, we get all the blame.

  19. Theoldadam said:

    Lutherans believe that if we are saved, God gets all the credit… and if we go to hell, we get all the blame.

    You lost me there. That makes no sense to me.

  20. We are all lost, because of sin. That is not God’s fault. Our disobedience is our doing. It is our fault that we (would) go to hell.

    But God has chosen (to His credit) to forgive sinners. Through the hearing of His Word, some are saved. This is God’s doing…not our own.

    This is biblical, and we believe it is true.

  21. TOA – you’ve said that Lutherans do not believe in free will. Is this the same thing as the Calvinism? I am not as well-versed in the different sects of Protestant theology, but I’ve always thought that it was chiefly Calvin who taught the concept of predestination in which God chooses those He will save, and it is not a choice made by us at all. Luther taught this, as well?

    Yes, Luther wrote a treatise called On the Bondage of the Will. Also, Luther does affirm a version of predestination.

    However, the Luther gets there by a completely different path than does Calvin. Calvin’s predestinationisism is an outcome of a robust doctrine of the sovereignty of God. And, it takes center stage in Calvinism by being the “P” part of TUPLIP, i.e. the perseverance of the saints. Finally, knowing if you are one of the saved is a perennial problem for Calvinists, and getting at that knowledge is something that different Calvinists answer differently.

    Luther’s predestinationism does not take center stage. It’s a result of the sinfulness of humanity, not the sovereignty of God. When we act willfully, we are separating ourselves from God because we are in bondage to sin. That’s what creates the lack of free will for Luther. Also, Luther provides a consistent answer for knowing if you are saved: the sacraments and the word. For Luther the key to knowing if you are saved is to not worry about it and trust in Christ via the ways he is made manifest, in the sacraments and the the word of the gospel. Because of this predestination becomes more of an ancillary issue in Lutheran theology.

  22. Jarec C asked:

    And, finally, what is a slave to righteousness if other than a person who tries really hard to be virtuous?

    If you’re a slave to righteousness, you don’t have to try (or you try in a completely different way), because God through grace gives you not only the ability but also the desire.

    At least that’s the understanding that I have come to.

    To use some (probably faulty) analogies: It’s like the difference between studying hard because you have to and studying hard because of the intrinsic reward in doing so. It’s like the difference between going on a diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle because you appreciate your body and want to take good care of it. It’s like the difference between caring for a doll as part of a high school parenthood class and caring for your own child.

    It’s the difference between doing virtuous things and being virtuous.

    Doing and being aren’t the same thing at all.

    I’m not sure how much this has to do with Romans that we’ve studied so far, but it has a lot to do with a sentence in Romans 12 (the whole chapter of which is one of my favorite sections of scripture):

    Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

  23. You lost me there. That makes no sense to me.

    It’s a very Lutheran reading of Romans 9, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.” Jacob is saved not because of anything he did, he deserved to be damned, but because of God’s work, Jacob is saved.

    Esau is damned because he deserved it. But, and this is crucial for Lutherans, Jacob also deserved it. Hence, for Lutherans we all get at least what we deserve. If we are saved, hooray. If not, well, you got what you deserved. Everything is fair, not in a comparative sense, but in a juridical sense, everyone gets what they deserved or something better.

    Hence, God gets the credit for salvation (on the merits of Christ) and the damned get credit for damnation (they didn’t merit salvation, but again, neither did anyone else).

  24. “Lutherans believe that if we are saved, God gets all the credit… and if we go to hell, we get all the blame.”

    “We are all lost, because of sin. That is not God’s fault. Our disobedience is our doing. It is our fault that we (would) go to hell.”

    I am sure that I am missing something here, which is why I am asking. This sounds to me like you are saying that through God’s action, we are saved, but through His inaction we are damned. That is, we are all damned because of our actions, but only through God’s actions (justification, grace, faith, etc) can we be saved. But I see that as also saying that it is through God choosing to withhold his justification, grace, faith, etc from some that those some will be damned. Am I reading this correctly, or am I still missing something?

  25. God doesn’t withhold, we do. He died for all (Cavinists believe He died and forgives only the elect, but the bIble clearly states that He died and forgives the whole world).

    But many reject that love.

    Who is the gospel meant for? Those who hear it.

    Why do some hear, and others do not? That is a mystery.

    In order to uphold the goodness of and sovereignty of God, we do not make Him the fall guy. We call Him the Creator and the Savior and the Redeemer. He gets all the credit for saving us, we get all the blame for losing ourselves.

    Some things, like why some her and others don’t, will have to remain a mystery to us. Maybe someday God will let us in on it, but He hasn’t decided to do that yet.

    It may not be the neatest bow on the package, and it may be hard to understand, but we think it is more accurate than making God into a monster who damns people He created to hell.

  26. I have to drive out to, and the spend the entire day at our annual church council retreat. This year it is in Palm Springs.

    I really don’t want to go (4hrs of drinving, roundtrip), but what are you gonna do.

    Anyway, I won’t be near a computer so this is my last comment of the day.

    Dave Clark, who knows more about Lutheran theology than most Lutherans do, can probably answer most questions (as he has already done) about the Lutheran perspective on all of this.

    No pressure, Dave 😀

    Thanks, all. I’ll be back tomorrow or late tonight. Looking forward to more good discussion, if not on this chapter, then on subsequent ones.

  27. David Clark, explaining Theoldadam’s enigmatic-to-me remark:

    Hence, God gets the credit for salvation (on the merits of Christ) and the damned get credit for damnation (they didn’t merit salvation, but again, neither did anyone else).

    I understand the logic of it now. I don’t buy it, largely because it basically eliminates free will, but it is logical and internally consistent.

    Your explanation of the differences between Calvinism and Lutheranism makes sense (and I’ll assume you’re accurate). For those of us who don’t fit in either camp (and I assume that would include Mormons and many evangelicals), I’ll throw out another option: Arminianism. As I understand it (and I’d be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong), Arminianism (or Arminianism-Wesleyanism) also accepts the doctrine of total depravity (which seems to be supported by the first chapters of Romans). However, it tempers that with something it calls prevenient grace, the idea that God can work through us while we are still sinners, and that in fact God does make grace available to all people so they can exercise the gift of free will.

    This is in contrast to the view of Pelagianism (an early Christian belief, denounced as heresy, that Mormons are often accused of subscribing to), which (and I’m certainly oversimplifying here, and again I might be wrong in my understanding) says that we can decide to choose God (or to choose good) without prevenient grace.

    Don’t hold me to anything I say here, as I am still sorting things out and trying to figure out what I believe, but this idea of prevenient grace makes a lot of sense to me, especially in light of the first few chapters of Romans. I’ll go so far as to say that prevenient grace can be thought of as another way of referring to the Spirit of Christ of Moroni 7. At least that’s my working theory today.

  28. Since I wrote my last comment, I’ve come across an interesting paper (presented at a 1995 Sunstone symposium) by a Calvinist who says basically that Mormonism (at least as it pertains to our doctrines on salvation) is Arminianism on steroids. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

    One thing he says that’s relevant to this forum and to the discussions we’ve been having on Romans is that there’s a fundamental divide between between Calvinists and Arminians, and that Arminians and Mormons are on the same side of that divide. Evangelicals who don’t recognize that will find interfaith dialogue confusing because (in this guy’s view) Arminians and Mormons share a similar worldview about the nature of God and the purpose of humanity that Calvinists don’t.

    I think it’s worth a read:

    It’s All in Arminius: Mormonism as a Form of Hyper-Arminianism

  29. I don’t quite know about that, Eric. All my Baptist heritage on my dad’s side, for over a century since Finney, has been Arminian. My mom’s side of the family was Nazarene. My wife’s side of the family is Pentecostal. But I don’t see how the current LDS Authority on doctrine matches up with my heritage and being on the same divide. I share a worldview with my heritage, but I am having trouble seeing how the Authorities fundamentally rejoice with Wesley.

    Steve, Romans 6 is good stuff. These chapters are such a blessing to me when living in an environment of grace and do, do, do. You and I might differ on some of the applications, but we are solidly in agreement on what Paul is fundamentally communicating in these chapters. Spiritual growth is all about the gospel and our union with Jesus Christ. I like these tweets that I picked up elsewhere by a grandson of Billy Graham . . .

    * Christian growth doesn’t happen first by behaving better, but believing better–believing in deeper ways what Christ has already secured for you

    * Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. It happens by working hard to live in light of what you do have

    * When you are united to Christ, then all that is Christ’s becomes yours: Access to God and affection from God can never be lost

    * The only antidote there has ever been to sin is the gospel—and since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.

    * The gospel never starts with what we need to do; it always begins with what God has already done; to get it backwards is to miss the gospel

    * The vertical indicative (what God’s done for me) always precedes horizontal imperative (how I’m to live in light of what God’s done for me)

    * What we need practically can only be experienced as we come to deeper understanding of what we are positionally—whats already ours in Christ

    * When you are united to Christ, no amount of good work can earn God’s favor and no amount of bad work can forfeit God’s favor

    * The irony of the gospel is that we truly perform better when we focus less on our performance for Jesus & more on Jesus’ performance for us

    * The hard work of sanctification is the hard work of constantly reorienting ourselves back to our justification.

    * Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; He always uses the gospel.

    * The gospel teaches us that being a slave to Christ is the essence of freedom, while being free to myself is the essence of slavery.

    * The gospel is the good news that God rescues sinners. And since both non-Christians & Christians are sinners, we both need the gospel.

    * The gospel grants Christians one strength over non-Christians: the strength to admit they’re weak.

    * The gospel isn’t just the power of God to save us, it’s the power of God to grow us once we’re saved.

    * When we transfer trust from ourselves to Christ, we experience the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.

    Secondly, my Baptists convictions are very similar to your Lutheran convictions on predestination, Steve. I do think that Romans 9 makes a strong case for individual (with corporate) predestination but not double predestination. So when an LDS friend on bloggernacle accuses a Lutheran (or any of the gang from Idaho’s TILM ministries) that they believe in a God who created poor miserable creatures and selectively damned them to hell, they have no idea (or maybe they do and don’t care) the disconnect that they communicate.

    _____

    In anticipation, Romans 6 and Romans 7 are sweeping truths that keep us from falling off of either side of the gospel mountain peak of chapter 5. And Romans 8 – well, that is one of the most, beautiful mountain meadow that I have ever sat in.

    Thanks Tim for pointing us all to the book of Romans.

  30. I am sure that I am missing something here, which is why I am asking. This sounds to me like you are saying that through God’s action, we are saved, but through His inaction we are damned. That is, we are all damned because of our actions, but only through God’s actions (justification, grace, faith, etc) can we be saved. But I see that as also saying that it is through God choosing to withhold his justification, grace, faith, etc from some that those some will be damned. Am I reading this correctly, or am I still missing something?

    That’s basically it. Though again, a Lutheran will not emphasize that some will remain in damnation (because of lack of grace), but will emphasize God’s action in saving those who receive his grace. Using the Jacob and Esau example I used before, a Lutheran is going to emphasize the good news that Jacob was saved, not the bad news that Esau got what he deserved.

  31. Since I wrote my last comment, I’ve come across an interesting paper (presented at a 1995 Sunstone symposium) by a Calvinist who says basically that Mormonism (at least as it pertains to our doctrines on salvation) is Arminianism on steroids. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

    One thing he says that’s relevant to this forum and to the discussions we’ve been having on Romans is that there’s a fundamental divide between between Calvinists and Arminians, and that Arminians and Mormons are on the same side of that divide.

    Here’s my take on this. Mormonism started out hyper-Arminian. I think the best description for the doctrine of grace in the Book of Mormon, taken as a whole, is hyper-Arminian. You get the total depravity of man in Mosiah 3:19 and in 2 Nephi 2. And the key phrase for Mormons, “we are saved by grace, after all we can do” is also Arminianism on steroids. Though, it’s at the edge of what could be considered Arminianism by making grace either contingent on or temporally after what one does.

    I think there is a very logical reason for this. The historical record is pretty clear that Joseph Smith liked Methodism before he started his new church. So, what you see in early Mormonism tends to be something you would see in Methodism, but with some misunderstandings caused by not being theologically sophisticated. Thus, the Book of Mormon is Arminian, with a twist. Also, the Book of Mormon (at least the original version) is Trinitarian with a twist. It’s modalistic, which is a common misunderstanding of Trinitarianism. Many of the most famous sermons in the Book of Mormon sound like early frontier preachers, many of whom were Methodist.

    However, as time went on, I think Mormonism adds features which moves it away from this hyper-Arminianism towards a form of Pelagianism. These would be things like insistence on proper authority, temple rituals, second annointings etc. Brigham Young trying to downgrade the depravity of man teachings would be another move in this direction. But, Mormon theology is like a layer cake. The Arminianism is still there in the lowest cake layer, while the Pelagian layers are on top. So which is it? I guess it depends on which layer you want to look at.

  32. Never wanting to be reductionist about these complicated issues, but it can be helpful to see most of these distinctions more or less reveal our answers to the question of whether salvation is God’s choice or man’s choice. This seems to me to be the question these positions seek to answer. The link posted above is a good example of explaining these roles in each faith tradition.

  33. Todd Wood said:

    But I don’t see how the current LDS Authority on doctrine matches up with my heritage and being on the same divide.

    The writer of that paper was speaking fairly specifically about how salvation comes about in the two belief systems. Issues of authority are something apart from the Calvinistic/Arminian divide he was talking about.

    While I don’t agree with everything in the paper’s analysis, I think the writer had a pretty good handle on LDS thought. It was actually refreshing to read an article by someone who obviously disagreed with LDS theology yet was willing to understand and explain it on its own terms. Not all who differ with the Church’s teachings are able to do that.

    I agree with David Clark that there’s plenty of Methodism to be found in Joseph Smith. I grew up in a Methodist sect that more or less claimed to be true to the understanding of John Wesley, and some of the similarities between what I learned as a kid and what the LDS church teaches are striking. Obviously, there are sharp differences as well.

    David Clark said:

    I just got a post in my rss feed from Parchment and Pen which might interest you. It’s a simple explanation of the Pelagianism, Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.

    That’s interesting. I’ll have to follow the conversation. My guess is that the most common LDS view would be most similar to the Catholic/EO explanation there. (I’m not sure how well those analogies capture the various perspectives on original sin.) My personal view at this point would be some sort of blend between Catholic/EO and Arminianism (using the definitions in that post).

  34. Eric, Wesley’s chapel ( http://www.wesleyschapel.org.uk/) is a nice place to visit when one is in London. I really appreciated the experience. It is just difficult for me to say that the current LDS Authorities actively push Wesley’s central views on justification if they are really seeking to bridge a divide. For instance, the booming Calvary Chapel movement in the Mormon Corridor emphasizes Arminian rather than Calvinistic thought. Are community LDS leaders publicly expressing where they agree with community CC pastors on the Gospel? If Joseph Smith lived today in America’s religious context, I wonder what kind of books he would write and what he would capitalize on.

    Steve, Craig Blomberg in his commentary on I Corinthians points to the gospel-centered Lutheran perspective.

    Let me pull a few quotes from within a context of discussing the judgment seat of Christ and the ideas of eternal hierarchies in heaven:

    “Too many Christians continue to think that God relates to them just like the taskmasters they have known in their families and jobs, as they expect daily blessings or punishments according to their level of faithfulness and obedience. . . .

    We need to recover too the foundational Reformation (and especially Lutheran) emphasis on gratitude as the primary motivation for living the Christian life. A person needs little added incentive for being friends with someone who has rescued him or her from drowning. Christ’s death for us on the cross should provide all the motivation we need to serve him. If we need more incentive, we have failed to grasp the most foundational logic of the gospel (cf. Rom. 6:1) and perhaps have not really appropriated God’s forgiveness at all.”

    October 31 is approaching next week. Happy Reformation Day to all.

  35. These are very strong scriptures teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we are to live soberly righteously and Godly in this present evil world. We cannot continue in sin and be saved. We must die to the flesh and be made alive in the spirit.

  36. We do continue in sin. That is a given.
    (“If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”)

    But we are to CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin.

    Why?

    Because we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. (Romans 6)

    Not because of OUR worthiness, or anything that we DO…or don’t DO.

    The next chapter (7) will make this fact abundantly clear.

  37. This thread makes me think that differences of belief about free will are much more of a barrier to interfaith dialog than differences of belief about creation ex nihilo.

    Tim, Jack, other Evangelicals: do you believe in free will? What major Christian denominations do/don’t?

  38. Like most charismatics, I’m Arminian. I believe God predestined to salvation those who would later believe in his Son. Since he knows the future, he could have chosen me in advance knowing that I would believe when confronted with the gospel. That way, there’s no conflict between predestination and freewill.

  39. BrianJ,

    As a Lutheran (who follows Luther’s teaching and the Lutheran Confessions – sadly, many Lutherans don’t anymore) we do not believe in “free will” when it comes to the things of God. As Luther pointed out so clearly in his great work, ‘The Bondage of the Will’, we believe that the human will (because of our sinful nature) is bound to sin.

    So, instead of free-will being the answer to getting right with God, we believe it is the problem. We beleive the only decision that matteres when it comes to getting right with God, is God’s decision for us. The one He made on the cross. To forgive those who are in rebellion to Him, and then to give them (the sinners) the faith required to believe it.

  40. Cal: Thanks. Others have argued that if God knows the future then we cannot have free will (or, even the very existence of the future, whether God knows it or not). I don’t think this is the place to get into that, but thought it’s worth mentioning that there still may be a significant conflict between predestination (as you’ve described it) and free will.

  41. BrianJ: Maybe Tim will let us get into that someday. This discussion on Romans seems to be a God thing, eh?

    theoldadam: Some minister once said that one of the foremost experts on John Calvin claims that Calvin wasn’t actually a Calvinist! I’ve never investigated it myself. You sound like an expert—do you know anything about that?

  42. Hi Cal,

    No, I don’t know about that.

    I guess I know more about Luther and Lutheranism, and enough of other theologies to get myself in trouble.

  43. It’s nonsense for you and those who do not believe, but there are many, many who believe it.

    Sure, you can believe that it’s somehow objective, but there’s nothing other than the bare assertion that it is so to back it up.

  44. Ok. Many millions of us would disagree with you, because He’s grabbed a hold of us and changed our lives, forever.

    To me, that’s not threadbare.

    As I’ve said before, you don’t believe and that’s ok by me. I couldn’t do anything about it, anyway.

  45. Ok. Many millions of us would disagree with you, because He’s grabbed a hold of us and changed our lives, forever.

    To me, that’s not threadbare.

    Not to me, either. I think it’s incredibly important! But it has nothing to do with establishing the Gospel as an “objective event from outside of ourselves, where God acts…for us” as you said. In fact, what you are describing is the very essence of subjectivity.

    I don’t mean that in a negative way, just a descriptive way. I think the subjective experience of “millions of us” is relevant and important and should be given serious consideration. But it doesn’t transform subjectivity into objectivity.

  46. He comes to us, from outside of ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that we are not changed.

    Many do not hear it (the gospel). Probably most do not hear it. I do not blame them. That’s just the way it is.

  47. Pingback: Paul’s Epistle To The Romans | Songs From The Wood

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