Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Natural Law as a Theology of Glory

Let me say at the beginning - there is much in Natural Law that is true -- there are points that some people claim as Natural Law that I would quibble with, there are applications I would object to - but there is a Natural Law.

However, I fear that it's current upswing in popularity is coming from a Theology of Glory point of view (a point of view I think it can be attached to quite easily... pre-reformation Catholicism was the domain of the theology of Glory).

Now, why do I say this? Because Natural Law is being viewed as a means of changing the world, of improving this world, of making this place a better place, as though this world isn't being prepared for destruction and renewal. Natural Law is being viewed as the last, best hope we have for keeping society from spiraling off into chaos, for making people moral.

Here's the problem.

Natural Law is God's Law.

What is the first commandment? Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

If one is an unbeliever, who by definition neither fears God nor trusts Him, why in the world would you give a (insert euphemism of your choice) about God's Law?

Seriously. Why? Will someone who denies that we were designed by God care about our arguments that stem from God's design? Will someone who thinks that we choose to be whatever we wish to be care about the "laws" of nature that he, as a fallen creature, delights in ignoring anyway?

But, but, but if we just show the Law, and show it well... then they will be better.

"It was a false, misleading dream, that God, His Law had given. That sinners could themselves redeem and by their works gain heaven" -- even a heaven on earth. "The Law is but a mirror bright, that brings the inbred sin to light, that lurks within our nature." Natural law does nothing to deal with *our* fallen nature.

But, but, but if we just get good laws passed.... then they will be better.

"Trust not in princes, they are but mortal. Earth-born they are, and soon decay. Naught are their counsels at life's last portal, when the dark grave doth claim its prey. Since, then, no man can help afford, trust ye in Christ our Lord!" This world is sinful, through and through. All around us we see nothing but death. The Law will not change that - the Law does not give life.

But, but, but the law works as a curb! That will make them better.

Eh... perhaps. If they listened. But how does a curb work? Only with threats of punishment - that things will be bad if you transgress. And arguing from a perspective of "natural law" doesn't do that. Natural Law appeals to what is right... not to punishment.

The lost must be shown that they are lost - that by giving into their sinful desires they receive no peace, no comfort, no joy. That sin offers nothing but false promises that do not deliver. The thing about sin is that, while it sounds good, it is bad. Show the consequences... not the back story behind, the reasons why. Sinful, selfish man doesn't care about nature, what should be... he cares only for what he wants to happen to him.

And even then... apart from Christ, that only leads to a slightly more gentle crushing, a slower, slightly less painful death. Apart from Christ, we only give people moral morphine, dulling the pain as they remain dying people in a dying world.

"My own good works all came to naught, No grace or merit gaining; Free will against God's judgment fought, dead to all good remaining." Apart from Christ, people are dead. Even if they play nicely, even if they bother me less and less, they are still dead. And all their works, however nice, however moral, however seemingly in accord with natural law they are, come to naught.

Of course, this was the point of Luther's Heidelburg Disputation - point number one:

"The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him."

Or as the hymnist sings - "From sin our flesh could not abstain, Sin held its sway unceasing. The task was useless and in vain, Our guilt was e'er increasing. None can remove sin's poisoned dart Or purify our guileful heart - So deep is our corruption."

Law will not save the world. It might curb some things... but only when people are convinced that what they want is actually bad for them (at least when we have people voting on laws). Otherwise, it all comes crashing down.

(Note: This is cross posted at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, so if you are interested you may follow the comments there.


Anonymous said...

Can you be more specific and say which Lutherans are using Natural Law this way and in what instances?

This seems relevant:


Andrew Packer

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Andrew -- Not really.

Seriously, this is something I get asked on ocassion here that confuses me. "Who is speaking this way!? Give us names!"

To be honest... I don't know. I don't tract the Natural Law circles... but just from my brief readings, seeing folks I know comment on this... this is the warning light that is going off on my head.

My purpose here isn't to play spot the heretic... it's so that you, when you go, can spot things that are off, even if I don't see them.

+ + + + + + + + +

As to your link - yes, Cochran hits the equal and opposite error... what I like to think of liberalism -- the denial of the reality of the Scriptures -- where instead of reason having a ministerial function it is completely dissassociated from faith.

And actually - I think you are most likely to see those who are going too strongly on natural law as the ones who are most vocal against liberal thought.

Every heresy has its equal and opposite heresy. The link points us to the problem which I link may lead many folks, in their zeal to defeat liberalism, to swing too far.

Ours is the middle way.

+ + + + + + +

As such, I don't know if it is fully formed and established yet... but I fear that folks are starting to lean this way... out of frustration at social decay (sorry guys, Satan is the prince of this world, that's the way its going to be) or at the mythologizing of the Christian faith that has been around for the past 80 years or so.

NL abuse seems an easy shot against that...

Phillip said...

I tried to write this on Blackbirds, but the interwebs didn't like me there. Maybe it's a sign...

The Ante-Nicene Fathers contended with pagan Romans on the issue of abortion using natural law (NL). NL only requires a belief in an superior order of the world. Even some atheists believe in NL because of a biological superior order controlling the world. When Europe was "fully" Christian, the Scholastics moved away from the idea of using NL to dispute with pagans. The early Fathers used it because it was common ground with the pagans.

The primary purpose of law is didactic. You can't bully 300,000,000 Americans into doing what you want, but you can teach enough of them what is "right" that you can bully the rest into submitting. Pro 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." This is the way law is supposed to function. Americans drive on the right because they are taught to, not to avoid punishment. The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights failed miserably because it purposely tried not to teach. Instead, it was just an agreement that WWII was bad and we don't want it to happen again, but people who didn't experience WWII's horrors proceeded to ignore it, because it did not teach them.

As you pointed out, NL has no assigned punishments. But is does teach right and wrong in the same way the Decalogue does. "Thou shall not kill." "We should fear and love God so that we do not harm our neighbor but help and assist him in every physical need." I credit the revival of NL with the revival of the didactic use of law. People want moral standards that they can agree upon to teach others to follow, because they recognize the necessity of law teaching and not merely commanding.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Andrew -- another way to think about this... I'm not calling anyone out. I'm not even sure that this is being done... but sometimes when I hear people talk about the Natural Law, I can sort of hear this in the background... not in the what they say in and of itself, but asking why they are focusing so strongly in this thrust... and I fear that the why might be leaning this way.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Phillip - a few thoughts.

The Fathers and Rome is sort of my point -- moral collapse is coming -- even the logic and wisdom of the world won't stop it... and trying to turn divine wisdom into something that the world can handle... eh.

Also, you say, "The primary purpose of law is didactic. You can't bully 300,000,000 Americans into doing what you want, but you can teach enough of them what is "right" that you can bully the rest into submitting."

Bully folks into sumbitting? So the best we can hope for is to become Islam, bringing about submission to the Law. That's a really cruddy second prize to Renewal and Regeneration via the Gospel. A really, really cruddy second place.

And that didactic approach to the Law... it's almost like it's a faithless 3rd use... your words sit oddly with me. Of course, any discussion of law that is semi-theological but then devoid of Christ or salvation is odd.

Of course, I think that is because the primary purpose of the Law is to convict people of sin... the second use. I get tired of my liberal friends who try to perfect society by law... the same sort of thrust from the conservative side seems odd to me as well.

I'm more inclined to just say to the whole world "Do what you will - as for me and my house, we will follow the Lord."

Phillip said...

Pr. Brown,

No pagan cares what the Bible says, but some care about NL. I'm going to go with the Fathers and use it if that means babies won't die. Paul uses NL and Greek philosophers when he preaches to Greeks instead of Jews. Is it as effective as Scripture? No. Would preaching how Jesus fulfilled the OT have done anything to convince Greeks? No. You want the law to convict people of sins, but how are you going to convince pagans polygamy is wrong? The Sixth Commandment holds little sway over non-Judeo-Christians. People will only feel guilty of their sins if they believe their actions are wrong. No matter how long you preach the 6th Commandment, unless people learn polygamy is wrong, they're secure in their sins. You need to be a Roman to preach to Romans, they don't care what some Jewish offshoot has to say.

Really? Comparing NL to Islam. Really? The big, large "Americans" didn't clue you in? This was an example from the civil realm. If everyone was a thief, the entire military couldn't keep people from stealing, even if they shot suspected thieves on sight. Teach 95% that theft is wrong, then the local police can handle the rest. Yes, the government bullies, because they have the sword.

The didactic function must precede the three uses as I said above. You have to teach people something's wrong before they stop it or feel guilty about it. I'm going to go with the Apostle Paul, you know that guy from Scripture, and use NL to teach people they've broken God's law. Not much of a pastor who says "do what you will". I'd think you and your house would want to preach the Law so sinners repent and can receive the Gospel. That is, after all, what Paul said to the world.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Part of my reaction is to the American idea that we've been a "Christian society" -- where Christianity is equated with morals... and a very large part of me is dubious of any attempt to establish a "moral society". Law won't make society moral... it might make them behave in public, it might make them hide their sin... but it won't bring about true morality, true righteousness.

And I also think focusing on Natural Law is less apt for today... our pagans aren't Deists who think that the world was at least ordered by a Creator God... they are radically selfish and self determining. Less and less "pagans" care about NL -- it's speaking to them less and less. "This is right, that is wrong" is too easily dismissed... "that won't really bring you pleasure (because it's wrong)" is much more effective because it plays off of self-interest instead of a moral absolute.

This is the thing - no one will think that what they are doing is wrong unless they see negative consequences. You tell the poligamist that they are violating God's law... um... who cares. If you show them that this is bad for them... ah, okay. Negative consequences must be shown.... then natural law explains how those consequences are to be expected.

Phillip said...

How then do you seek to reach them? I assume you don't want to preach the Prosperity Gospel, and you don't seem like the "you have a big whole in your heart" type. How will you teach unbelievers that their actions are sinful and harming them?

"Law won't make society moral... it might make them behave in public, it might make them hide their sin... but it won't bring about true morality, true righteousness." If law teaches people to behave in public, that's pretty good for the public. If they hide their sin, again good for the public. In the kingdom of the left hand, coveting is much better than stealing. Pointing people to true morality is you job. The Decalogue taught the Israelites that steeling, adultery, and murder are wrong. After they learned this, Jesus taught them that coveting is theft, lust is adultery, and anger is murder. It wasn't till they understood these base concepts were wrong that Jesus showed them desiring these concepts were wrong. If Nicodemus didn't know that stealing was wrong, Jesus would not have been able to show him exploiting his position was wrong. Let the civil law help you teach murder is wrong, so that you can then teach that hate is wrong and we all deserve to be damned for it. Civil morality is never as good as true morality, but the Israelites had to learn civil morality before they could learn true morality. If a person has never drank anything stronger than coolade, they will likely spit out straight whiskey. Likewise, a person will be more likely to swallow 200 proof law if they've been brought up on 60 proof civil law.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And now, Phillip, we are going cross purposes.

I am not trying to say that Law is bad. That morality or civil righteousness is bad. Hardly.

The problem I have is this: morality and moral living can often be accepted as... enough. Even by those in the Church at large. It can be the "goal" -- and civil righteousness can never be the goal of the Church.

If that is your approach, you get Finney or the Social Gospel. Maybe you get Rome's "Anonymous Christians" who have no knowledge of God nor any faith, but because of their good, moral life are really Christians in everything but name.

When we start approaching talk about social engineering via the Law, I get nervous. Social Gospel alarms start going off in my head. When we start approach talk about making people do "good" and live "right" - alarms about a substitution of works for the Gospel go off. It has happen before, and in all branches of the Christian faith.

Whenever we start talking about people acting in a positive way, apart from faith and rebirth and the new life I get nervous - because we can quickly blur the distinctions between that which is civil (hey, that's nice) and the theological (those works are damnable, for they are still sinful through and through).

Again - I am not saying every application of NL is fundamental wrong. Hardly. But we should be wary of what we are expecting it to do -- especially in the Church, where our goal and reason for using the Law does not mesh with the State's reason and use. The state can be content with a mere curb - the Church never can.

Phillip said...

A mere curb will rot out the state as badly as the church. The Three Uses extend to all law, not just theology. Look at the Mediterranean right now. People were kept in check by force and not taught to obey the law because it is the law or it is right. Or look at how force failed to quell the Civil Rights movement. Good government teaches and gets obeyed. Bad governments exist until people get tired of bullying. Good laws are good laws. The state does well to copy the Decalogue, or at least the Second Table. The Church has to be vary of following the state's morality, but this is the Church's problem, not the state's. The Church will always have to teach people that the Law extends beyond not murdering in cold blood. But if I can convince someone that defying the government by speeding is sinful and share the Gospel with them because of it, Thanks be to God!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

But Phillip, you cannot have a 3rd use of the law apart from faith. The third use isn't "do the law because it is good" but rather is the Holy Spirit working upon believers. There can be no 3rd use apart from the Church. There can be no true love of righteousness apart from the righteousness of Christ.

You love the Law of God as good and right. It is fundamentally impossible for one without faith to do this... not really. The best it will ever be is a curb that they appreciate, or even study and think is necessary... but nothing more than a curb.

May the Spirit convict them and bring them to repentance - God grant it! May the Spirit make them strive to love God according to His precepts? God grant it! But that all is tied to and part and parcel of faith.

The world knows of the law only as Curb.

Phillip said...

Guide exists in the civil realm as well as religion. I'd say it functions slightly differently when religion is removed, but it is fundamental to all law. In the interest a being lazy, I'll copy from an unfinished paper I'm doing on the topic:

The law cannot effectively curb without also mirroring and guiding. If people are not made to feel guilty about transgressing a curb and the temporal punishment for breaking the law is not harsh enough to enforce the law by fear, then people will cease to feel bound by the law. If the curb is not binding then it is no curb at all. A prime example of this is speed limits. Many people do not feel breaking the speed limit is wrong. This prevents the law from using its mirror to show people their guilt for speeding. This belief negates the moral curb of the speed limit. Since people are unlikely, or at least perceive themselves to be unlikely, to receive a ticket for speeding slightly, the temporal curb of law is also neutralized. Since the lack of the effective use of Mirror does not make people feel guilty about speeding and since the temporal punishment is light for it, many people speed slightly. This makes the speed limit an ineffectual curb on the actions of many motorists.
Another example of the law failing to curb actions when the Mirror of law does not convict their conscience for breaking it is the sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement. When the African-American activists became convinced quite rightly that segregation was not morally binding on them, they began ignoring it despite incredibly harsh temporal punishment. When the Mirror of the law no longer convicted the consciences of these activists that sitting in restaurants was wrong, no temporal punishment could suffice to curb their actions. Without Mirror showing individual consciences that they are guilty for breaking a law, no instance of Curb can stand.
Just as Curb cannot exist without Mirror, it cannot exist without Guide. There are too many possible situations for any law to be effective merely by curbing actions. No legislator could prohibit every conceivable evil action. Nor could anyone learn a code of law that explicitly prohibits every evil action. Were such a code of law to be written, it would immediately be ineffective because no one would be able to learn it. A law could ban assault with a deadly weapon. This would be an example of Curb and Guide. It curbs people’s actions by binding their consciences to not assault people with deadly weapons; however, it must guide them to understand what a deadly weapon is. It would be dangerous and impractical for the law to ban assault with a baseball bat, assault with a billy club, with a sword, with a steel rod, etc. This would be dangerous because it would inevitably leave off some deadly object and make assault in that instance legal. This is impractical because no one could learn a list of every object enumerates as a deadly weapon. This requires the law to guide people to the understanding that if assaulting someone with an iron rod is wrong so is assaulting them with a steel or aluminum one. It also must guide them to realize that the foam rod of a pool noodle is not a deadly weapon. If this final concept is not realized then the law ceases to be a prohibition of assault with a deadly weapon and becomes a prohibition of striking anyone with any object.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Here you are speaking in terms of "curb, mirror, and guide" that are not in line with the three uses of law as understood in the modern Christian tradition.

The first use of the Law, as a curb, includes the threat of punishment. In fact, it is the threat of civil punishment that brings about the curb. "An Eye for an Eye" is a curb precisely because of the punishment.

And that is all that is needed for civil righteousness. I don't need to wonder about safety issues, I don't need to try to avoid feeling bad about breaking the law - I just need to know that if the cop sees me, I'm going to get a ticket. The commericials warning about Drunk Driving tell you that if caught, you WILL be punished. It is the punishment itself that is a curb.

A law that is not enforced ceases to be a curb.

The 2nd use of the Law, the mirror, is not so much about punishment, but being crushed morally. The mirror shows that I am wrong. You don't need people to think that they are wrong in order to obey... they just have to be fearful of the consequences.

Likewise, the 3rd use isn't required at all for civil righteousness. Indeed, the worst pagan or athiest can be civilly righteous, knowing nothing of God and certainly not desiring to please Him or do His will.

You really are off here... I'd strongly, strongly, strongly suggest reading the FC VI - which you can find here - http://www.bookofconcord.org/sd-thirduse.php

There the first use is described thus: "1. not only to the end that external discipline and decency are maintained by it against wild, disobedient men;"

If you are dealing with the world, in the civil realm, apart from theology, apart from spiritual uses, only the first is in play, and that is all that is needed for the exercising of outward discipline.

Phillip said...

You are wrong. Any legal scholar will tell you people won't obey a law unless they feel bound to it. Not even death can stop people from opposing laws perceived to be immoral. The sword does nothing if people don't feel bound to the law. Look at history, it's blatantly obvious there.

The law can't specifically bind every action. It has to rely on people figuring out some of the specifics for themselves. Look at the Constitution, the founders made it a guide, not an enumerated list of rules.

Though they aren't likely to use the words "curb," "mirror," and "guide" all legal scholars recognize this.

"The commericials warning about Drunk Driving tell you that if caught, you WILL be punished." Yet people still do it. Curbs don't work, ever. I studied both FC's when I wrote that paper. I know what they say. Sorry Pr. Brown, but you know nothing of legal theory, and you're ignoring the blatantly obvious examples from history.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

But "feeling bound" to the Law IS NOT the third use of the Law.

The problem is you are trying to use theological language and import it over to legal theory.

Of course people will rebel against laws they think are unjust... that says nothing to whether or not they *are* unjust.

In theology, we do not deal with the perceptions of people. We deal with reality. The mirror shows you that something is sin -- it doesn't matter whether or not you like being shown your sin, it doesn't matter whether or not you agree... you have been shown your sin. Likewise the 3rd - unless there is faith, you will NEVER really want to do God's Law out of love and devotion to Him. At best you might get enlightened self interest.

And that's the problem here. Your focus and thoughts on legal theory ignore an even deeper reality. You say, "Not even death can stop people from opposing laws perceived to be immoral."

The deeper and more fundamental truth is this: People will never obey the law because they are immoral and spiritually dead.

All have sinned. Period. No one is righteous, not one. So if the task is trying to derive a legal theory that *all* people will agree to, that's utterly impossible.

Now, can we work on shaping a better curb? Of course! If less people have a desire to break a law, if it is less odious to more people, it's far less likely to be broken. As I (and few people) have a desire to drive into the drainage ditches along Garriot Road in Enid, we don't have nearly as many people bouncing off of those curbs. Great. Likewise, laws that aren't burdensome are less likely to be broken. Good.

If people understand the importance of a law, are they less likely to break it... sure.

But that's just self interest - nothing more, nothing less. And self interest is all wrapped up, from a theological point of view, in the first use. It's all the result of reason to break and hinder civil unrighteousness... whether that unrighteousness is hindered by threats of punishment (the sword) or natural consequences.

Yet, no matter how good the law, no matter how well crafted, no matter the wonderful depth of the legal theory - people will still sin. People will still break the law. There is no paniopticon that will fix this, there is no perfect discipline that will reform (have you read Foucualt's Discipline and Punishment -- you might find it interesting).

The 2nd and 3rd uses of the Law are not from our reason - they are uses of the Law by the Holy Spirit. He is the one who reveals to man his sin, He is the one who guides and helps the Christian in the way he is to go.

+ + + + + + +

I can see the idea behind what you say... yes, a good law will be self evidently a good idea... so that if a person breaks it will be obvious (at least to the rest of society) that what they did was bad. Oh, yeah, murder is sort of bad for society, we should make it illegal. And yes, law will direct... will move the populous (or at least try to) from certain behaviors that are harmful.

But if you pull those theological terms - mirror, guide - out of their theological context, you radically change their meaning. That's... novel at best... and utterly confusing to anyone coming from a theological point of view (as an example - folks on a theological blog).

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Or let me put it this way.

While we use the terms "mirror" and "guide" in theological circles with an indefinite article (the law functions as *a* mirror), that is only in an introductory way. The terms themselves, mirror and guide, have very definite characteristics.

Characteristics which your usage in your paper violates. And as such, now the concern is not your understanding of legal theory, but of theology.

When we say that the Law functions as a mirror - we do not mean to say that it simply shows people that breaking the law is bad. That they should feel guilty. That's not the fullness of the 2nd use.

The fullness of the 2nd use is this. You deserve to go to hell because you have broken the Law of God Almighty.

Unless God is involved, unless hell and damnation are involved - it's not the second use. It's not "the mirror" as Christians have spoken about the mirror for centuries. The 2nd use is not just that the Law is a hammer that crushes, it is that it is the Hammer of God.

Likewise, the third use does not teach that the Law is a guide which instructs -- i.e. that it tells people what is good. That's not the fullness of the 3rd use.

The third use is that the Holy Spirit holds the Law before the regenerate and they see in that Law ways in which they might do that which is pleasing to God.

Again - it is vital for the 3rd use of the law to have the Holy Spirit and the idea of doing that which is in accordance with God's Will.

Your use of "mirror" and "guide" above have no need of God in their definition whatsoever. They have no need any any eternal consequence whatsoever.

Thus, from a theological point of view - they are all simply aspects of the 1st use.

I do not need my neighbor to know that if he kills he, he will be liable for the fires of hell. I just need him to know that killing me is bad.

I don't need my neighbor to know that not killing me is a good thing before God, indeed, that helping me is good before God. If he helps me simply to stop his wife from nagging at him (which he knows is a good thing), that works for me.

When you say that in the civil realm the Law still has all three uses, you are castrating the spiritual aspects of the 2nd and 3rd use of the Law... which are precisely what define them *as* the 2nd and 3rd use.

Phillip said...

Again, you just don't get legal theory at all. I'm not saying you need hellfire and damnation in civil law. Read anyone. They'll pretty explicitly tell you you're wrong. Everyone recognizes the three uses as I stated above. Read Hart or Fuller, they completely disagree but they recognize this. Same for Locke and Hobbes, it's in their work. Read Russ Hittinger, John Witte, Alasdair MacIntyre, Maritain, Elizabeth Anscombe, De Koenick, anyone. The second and third uses of the law are not your private theological realm. The concepts apply without the theological implications in the civil realm. Read and learn legal theory before you hate it so much.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I do not hate that legal theory - I dislike the appropriation of theological terminology that has a specific meaning into a foreign context. It makes for a lack of clarity. You yourself said that they don't use those "terms".

The ideas, I can get. If you pass a law that no one likes, people will be more apt to break it -- if you don't think you are being bad in breaking a law, you will be more apt to break it.

But to claim that as a "second use" is to use Theological terminology in a completely foreign way. It bastardizes theological language.

I *KNOW* that you don't want hellfire and damnation -- it's CIVIL law you are interest in. But it is foolish, if that is true, to take theological terminology that specifically does imply hellfire and damnation and use it in a civil sense.

And more over - the point I am making is this: from the theological point of view, any and all civil, logical reasons that would compel or induce or encourage a person to act in a civilly or outwardly righteous way are all wrapped up in what theologians call the 1st Use, or Civil Use, of the Law, be it:

1. Threat of punishment.
2. Application of guilt.
3. Extolling of good consequences
4. An appeal to fairness and equality.
5. An appeal to safety
6. The use of social disdain
7. Monetary benefits or tax breaks for compliance
8. Something else, whatever it is that has no fundamental tie to salvation...

From a theological standpoint, that is all first use. If it exhorts, urges, threats, twists, binds, manipulates, coerces, or encourages someone to a positive social behavior without tie to faith or salvation (i.e. that is limited purely to the civil realm), this is 1st use. The civil use of the law.

That's it.

If it is civil, about civil righteousness and the encouragement there of, by hook or by crook, it is first use.

Period. By definition.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Also included under the first use of the Law:

1. Appeals to Patriotism or nationalism.
2. Appeals to duty.
3. Tell folks that chicks dig it.
4. Puss in Boots' big wavery eyes.
5. When Sheriff Bart asks, "Would you do it for Randolph Scott" in Blazing Saddles.
6. The offering of extra credit.

These all are things uses to shift civil behavior onto a better vector.

And they are all first use.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Or to put it this way:

When a theologian speaks of the three "uses" of the Law, he is not speaking of differing ways in which *we* as people try to apply the Law to people. It's not that we can apply force, be a bad cop, or encourage.

The term "use" of the Law is speaking to how God acts upon a person via the Law.

If a person is moved towards civil righteousness and outward obedience - this is the first use.

If a person is convicted of his sin before God, this is the second use.

If a Christian learns from the Law ways in which he might do that which is good, this is the third use.

The "uses" of the Law are not descriptors of how we approach, act, or handle things of morality... they describe how God acts upon us.

In the Civil Realm - and in legal theory - the 2nd and 3rd have nothing to do and no place, for the civil realm doesn't bring those things into place.

Phillip said...

Again. READ ANY LEGAL SCHOLAR BEFORE YOU START SAYING WHAT LAW IS!!! You just don't get legal theory at all. Learn it, then critique my legal theory, but seeing as Russ Hittinger says I'm spot on and reading any legal scholar will show you they agree with me, you're not going to win the debate. And you know what, "guide" is commonly used to refer to civil law. There are no "set" terms to use, but Curb, Mirror, and Guide are thrown around. I said the terms aren't common, because there is no common set of terms to refer to it.

The first use is not the "civil use." Excommunication is a curb. It exists in a purely theological sense. Preaching about Hell and punishment, another purely theological curb. People sick and dying for abusing the Eucharist, another theological use of curb. Read the Confessions, they're clear the three uses are inseparable. You don't have a civil use and two theological uses, you have the law that acts in three interdependent but unique ways. You can't cast aside the first use as civil and deny the others to human law. Law is law. The Confessions are explicit on this. There are not three laws but one law. Law always does all three.

Bastardizing theological language. Are you the Pope that you have authority over words? Language is fluid. Half our theological terms come from Greek philosophy. Lot of theological terms are used in non-theological senses. You don't like it, start using only original Greek/ Hebrew equivalents. Give up your philosophical terms and I'll stop using Chemnitz's.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Know that this is my modified and mollified response. I ask you to read it with care and diligence.

My contention is this - when you speak of the "curb" above, which is commonly used in Theological circles to denote the 1st use of the law, you limit it in a way that the first use is not limited in the theological understanding of the 1st use, as taught by the Confessions.

Note what FC VI 16 says, "or as long as man is not regenerate, and [therefore] conducts himself according to the Law and does the works because they are commanded thus, from fear of punishment or desire for reward, he is still under the Law, and his works are called by St. Paul properly works of the Law, for they are extorted by the Law, as those of slaves; and these are saints after the order of Cain [that is, hypocrites]."

This is simply and solely a reference to the first use - the civil use. This applies to the unregenerate man. And how does this apply? It is not just a matter of hinder or blocking (the curb as you limit it above), but also is included the idea of reward. It is both the carrot and the stick, so that even the most obstinate mule is moved forward.

If you use the term "curb" in such a way as though it only describes threats of punishment and not reward, encouragement (be it physical reward or even the teaching of moral virtue... virtue is its own reward) - then you are not using the term as the Confessions use it.

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Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think you should re-read some of my comments, for you seem to be drawing this as much more of an attack than it is. And you have been quite harsh in your defense.

You have told me I know nothing of the Law -- I who am called by God to preach Law and Gospel.

Ponder the insult that is.

I have said I think you are using something poorly and unclearly. In response, you have called me ignorant and a know nothing - saying I know neither anything about legal theory, nor the theology of the law.

I have been concerned for you because you seem to miss a very key point about about the third use of the law, the guide, from the perspective of the Confessions - "3. but also that, when they have been born anew by the Spirit of God, converted to the Lord, and thus the veil of Moses has been lifted from them, they live and walk in the law..."

Again, the idea of guide (I prefer trellis) is only after regeneration - so unless you are dealing with the regenerate, there is no *true* third use from the theological point of view... there is only the desire to avoid punishment or gain reward -- which the Law can be very useful.

If you then say that curb, mirror, and guide are used in Legal Theory as you describe... so be it. You yourself had said, "Though they aren't likely to use the words "curb," "mirror," and "guide" all legal scholars recognize this." From this I took the use of these terms to be your own addition or introduction into legal theory parlance -- as though you were appropriating them.

If they are already in legal theory, I apologize for accusing you of introducing novelty - however, I will warn you -- they are being used differently than they are in Lutheran theology, and you must be careful not to mix the definitions, any more than you would confuse a legal "justification" with the justification we have in Christ Jesus.

Yes, from a civil point of view, even with the most contemptible lout, good law by the state will be something that shapes his actions, will be something he fears to break, that provides direction for what he should do.

But, when you say, "A mere curb will rot out the state as badly as the church. The Three Uses extend to all law, not just theology," and the Confessions clearly state that the 3rd use is a working of the Holy Spirit upon the Regenerate... you aren't using the terms the same way.

Be wary of the difference in meaning of these terms in the two fields, and do not think they operate in the same way.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Or one more tact and angle, just to make the position of the Confessions clear.

The third use of the law acts as a guide, but a guide towards what? Not as a mere guide to outward righteousness or a well ordered society (a curb does that - the bumpers in bumper bowling do that).

No, the idea of the 3rd use being a guide is that it the Law guides those who have been brought to faith and know the love of God into showing love themselves.

The curb leads to nice behavior in society, which is a blessing.
The guide leads to love, being shaped by God through faith and forgiveness.