One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

The title comes from an old Sesame Street game.  In the discussion of Law and Gospel (LG) vs. Two Kinds of Righteousness (2KR), many are claiming that we who speak against 2KR are overreacting. Two Kinds of Righteousness, they say, is just another way of saying Law and Gospel. For example, a recent discussion on FB had this comment, “L&G and the 2KR are different ways of saying the same thing.” Another commenter said, “I think its another way of saying the same thing.”


Just wow.

Let’s look at these for a minute and see the difference. First, Law and Gospel.

The Law does three things:

1) Acts as a Curb. (Keeps society from gross sin)

2) Acts as a Mirror. (Shows us our sin)

3) Acts as Guide. (For the Christian only)

The Gospel does three things:

1) Shows us what God the Father has done for us in Creation.

2) Shows us that God has saved us in Jesus Christ.

3) Brings us to faith in the promise through the Word and Sacraments.

Now, let’s look at 2KR. The first kind of righteousness is passive. Luther says:

The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without.  This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies though faith

The second kind of righteousness is active. Again Luther:

“…This is that manner of life spent profitably in good works…”

But these works depend on the first righteousness.

The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness.

Do you see the difference yet?

The Law applies to all people in it’s first two uses. According to the synod’s catechism:

The Law must be proclaimed to all people, especially to impenitent sinners; the Gospel must be proclaimed to sinners who are troubled in their minds because of their sins.

Now do you see it?

L&G are designed to apply (in their entirely) to all. You must begin with the Law. But, when you reach a certain point (repentance) then the Gospel must be offered.  This does not supplant the Law. Far from it. The Law still applies, so that, a Christian who is stealing from ATM’s can be told, “You are forgiven, but you must no longer commit these sins.” Jesus himself does this, “Go and sin no more.” This is a proper application of Law and Gospel to a Christian if ever there was one. (As opposed to preaching to an impenitent sinner, to whom only the Law is spoken.) Between the two teachings, every situation (impenitence, repentance, new living, anti-nomianism, false doctrines of every sort, etc.) is covered. There is nothing in scripture that is not comprehended under these two teachings.

Are you there yet? OK, then let’s finish this up.

2KR begins with the righteousness of Christ. That is, it begins with the Gospel. It then moves to our righteousness. But since we have not had the law, if we only understand scripture according to 2KR, then we have Gospel first, Law second. This is a direct inversion of the proper logical sequence.

This is the same inversion found in Pelagianism, Tetzelism, and Pietism (as previously noted HERE and HERE). That is why I say that this can only lead to bad things, e.g. Self-righteous Christians who are more proud of their own works than of Christ’s merit.

Which is to say (once again) 2KR is fine as sermon illustration: It can be used to explain the place of the 3rd use of the law (AND ONLY THE 3RD USE OF THE LAW) in the life of the Christian who has already repented of, and received forgiveness for sins. It can not be given to the impenitent. It is of no use for the heathen who has never repented. It can not be used in any context that does not first pre-suppose the salvation given by Christ, because Christ comes first.

But the Law absolutely can be given to the impenitent, or the heathen (Indeed, it must be.) 2KR attempts to take the third use of the law, and stretch it so that all of Law and Gospel are comprehended under it. But they are not, and will not be. Those who try will seriously damage their ability to properly distinguish between Law and Gospel – if they ever did so in the first place.

And just in case I have not been clear enough:

Pastors or professors who teach 2KR as a better method/paradigm for interpreting scripture than Law and Gospel, may be fine Roman Catholic pastors, they may be fine Arminian pastors, they may even be fine Eastern Orthodox pastors, but they by definition can not be Lutheran Pastors, no matter what the name says on the sign, the institution, the nameplate, or the roster.

Again I ask, can we get back to Law and Gospel now?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

  1. Pingback: Issues Etc: The Aftermath | Musings of a Country Parson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s