Monday, October 17, 2022

A New 4th Use of the Law?

 Lutherans have long allowed for 3 uses of the Law.  The primary use of the Law is what often gets termed its 2nd Use (maybe central use would be better) - the Law reveals our sin.  It shows us our sin, drives us to repentance, and thus we are prepared to hear the Gospel.  This is the theological use of the law.

However, the Law also provides for order in society.  It acts as a curb (1st use) where it's threats and punishments keep wickedness in check by fear and threat.  It also acts as a guide (3rd use) where those who love God may thereby seek out to do works of service to God that are pleasing to Him and beneficial to society.  Both of these are centered on loving the neighbor - whether by force or by devotion to God the neighbor is served.

Every so often, though, I end up seeing what I think is a purposed 4th use of the law - the Firebreak use of the law.  People see a trend in society, something that is wrong - and rather than just staying strictly with what God says, an additional firebreak is extended.  Instead of simply "don't eat" - a "don't touch" gets added... because if you can't touch it, you can't eat it.  And there are many examples of this through the ages.

Don't fornicate - so don't dance.
Don't gamble - so don't use face cards.
Don't violate the Sabbath - so don't go over X steps.
Don't misuse the name of the LORD - so don't even speak Jehovah.

So on and so forth the pattern goes.  And the arguments are always wonderfully appealing - there is a danger, and clear and present danger - and we can't give in an inch to them, so to make sure they stay far, far away, we are going to... add things.  Expand the meaning.  Give our holiness a little lebensraum so that it is not defiled.

And these always go poorly.  Wickedly.  The gateway to tyrannical legalism because is it as much and as wicked a sin to add to God's Law as it is to take away from it.

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The Pastoral Office is reserved only for men.  It is the office of preaching and teaching, of administering the Sacrament.

But the public square is not reserved for pastors, nor the writing of books, nor discussion.  In these forums, all the baptized alike are of the royal priesthood, with all the rights there given.

Fear of woman pastors, fear of society losing any distinction between man and woman is no reason to go beyond the limits God has set.  And we do not add to His Word the firebreaks we think we need because of His fear, no more than we ignore His Word to be culturally relevant.  Either is the way of folly.

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