New Release:Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, by Pr. Jordan Cooper
Jan 24, 2015 @
Below is an email I sent to Issues, etc. in response to one of your comments regarding the Reformed during the episode in which you discussed “The Four Views Of Justification”. I never received a response from them. Just curious what your thoughts are.
I would like to take this time to thank you for your program of which I thoroughly enjoy, primarily because I feel I receive a sound, orthodox explanation of Lutheran doctrine. I myself am a Reformed Christian and am writing to you in response to a recent guest on your show by the name of Jordan Cooper. In the broadcast titled “Different Views of Justification” aired on 8/8/12, Mr. Cooper stated the following, “In the Reformed church, the focus – because union with Christ is the center, the focus isn’t the doctrine of justification – the focus, often times, is on what we have to do as Christians, or sanctification. The focus can be on our good works, and, uh, what we need to do to live a more, uh, Christian and more holy life.” This is not the first such statement I have heard on your program expressed by different guests during previous episodes. While I appreciate your desire to discuss the differences in doctrine concerning our respective denominations, I am afraid a gross error has been made in Mr. Cooper’s assertion that the Reformed look to our works as a means of assurance of salvation. Though Mr. Cooper’s comments hinted otherwise, I will simply take it for granted that you understand the Reformed in no way believe our works play any role in our justification. However, I will seek to clarify very briefly from our confessions (the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession & Canons of Dort), the mistaken notion that the Reformed, in any way shape or form, place any confidence in the flesh, our works, or in anything else other than the perfect work and merits of Jesus Christ on our behalf for our assurance of salvation.
We as Reformed Christians do acknowledge that a true and living faith is necessarily accompanied by good works, and that to a certain extent, we can take comfort as we witness the grace of the Holy Spirit being worked out in us (see H.C Q&A # 86). Nevertheless, this acknowledgement is tempered always by a profound realization that “even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience” and that “even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin”. Indeed, “I am still prone always to all evil” and must never forget “only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God” (see H.C Q&A #s 114, 62, 60 & 61). As we live out our Christian lives, the Reformed are “continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion, and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ” else “our poor consciences would be continually vexed if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.”. We are ever “acknowledging ourselves to be such as we really are, without presuming to trust in any thing in ourselves, or in any merit of ours, relying and resting upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone” for we know “if we should appear before God, relying on ourselves or on any other creature, though ever so little, we should, alas! Be consumed” ( B.C Articles 29, 24 & 23).
Furthermore, while our beliefs concerning the Sacraments instituted by Christ differ in terms of substance, I think we share at least some common ground in terms of purpose. We believe God, in regards to the grace He imparts to us, “preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of his Word…as well as by the use of the Sacraments”. Further, “We believe that our gracious God, on account of our weakness and infirmities, hath ordained the Sacraments for us…thereby assuring and confirming in us the salvation which he imparts to us”. We confess “The Sacraments are visible, holy signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the Gospel” (C.O.D, Head 5, Article 14; B.C Article 33 & H.C Q&A 66).
I’m sure you would agree that the best way for us to understand each other is by a careful study of what we each confess. I do not believe Mr Cooper’s comments were malicious and he has obviously read many Reformed authors. However, any criticism of Reformed doctrine as a whole necessarily encompasses all who profess that view, not just the theologians and authors who may represent their denomination to a large extent, but more so represent themselves. In other words, authors fairly invite criticism upon themselves based upon the work they choose to publish and make known. Any criticism leveled at the Reformed church should likewise be based upon the statements of faith which they declare and make known. Thank you for your time.
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