Over the past few months, I have become something of a minor celebrity among proponents of Two Kinds of Righteousness. I have, very publicly, stated my opposition to it. I have defended that position, as far as I am able, to those who have written, spoken, or e-contacted me directly. Those who have questioned me assumed that perhaps I have not studied the issue fully. But I have read, watched videos, and even joined with other pastors in discussing this. I have asked questions of Dr. Biermann himself. I have carefully considered his answer. My opposition is not the result of poorly considered theological principles, but the result of careful analysis of the entire corpus doctrinae of 2KR , and its relationship to Lutheran theology.
Recently, I had the privilege of editing and releasing the book “Footwashers: Following the Jesus Way.” The original title was “The Ethics of Jesus.” I have explained, to those who have asked, that the virtue ethic proposed as the implementation of 2KR raises more problems, and more serious ones, than the problems it alleges to fix. Footwashers is, in a sense, the theological response on my part to 2KR.
Several colleagues in ministry challenged me to read Biermann’s book. I did. They have challenged me to hear him out. I was unable to do so because of my brother-in-law’s funeral, but I did submit questions to him, which he graciously answered. I have watched video of him teaching and explaining himself. I have done all that I can to try and understand properly what is being proposed in 2KR.
My challenge is for those who believe I am mistaken in my criticism. I have read your books on ethics and theology. The Ethics of Jesus (Footwashers) is an easy read. It is available for free for the nook app, and at smashwords , and is only $0.99 for the kindle. So, my challenge is this:
Read The Ethics of Jesus, and explain to me, based on plain reason, scripture and the confessions, what about the structure of Dr. Lehmann’s argument is wanting. Where does it fail in any way to address the theological issues raised by the challenge of the Christian life in this world? Where does the logic fail? Where does the theology lead us astray?
Dr. Beirmann dismisses the idea of a motivational ethic:
…when ethics is confined to the question of motivation, the Christian’s faith is only able to speak about why that Christian should live a “holy life,” but when asked what that Christian life should look like, or how it should be cultivated, faith has nothing to say. All that matters is motive… The question of motivation proves to be altogether inadequate as a comprehensive account of the task of Christian ethics. A Christian ethic founded only on motivation fosters an obsession with elusive internal responses and self-evaluations and tends to minimize external standards of behavior. To reduce the ethical question to one of motivation produces a framework that not only fails to account for the breadth of the confessional and experiential date, but in fact further complicates and distorts the picture.
Dr. Lehmann not only proposes a motivational ethic, he says that Luther does as well. Because of the nature of his book, that claim is left unproven (“Ethics of Jesus”, not “Ethics of Luther”). Yet, if we believe that Luther is a correct interpreter of Holy Scripture, then the theology of Jesus must match the theology of Luther (as must also their Ethic.) Does Dr. Lehmann’s presentation fail to answer the objection Dr. Biermann poses? Does “The Ethics of Jesus” somehow fail to correctly express Luther’s theology? And if so, how does it then fail to express Jesus’ theology (which, we have already said, must be the same)? Or perhaps if you still maintain that Dr. Biermann has correctly identified Luther’s ethic, while finding nothing lacking in Dr. Lehmann’s presentation, how do you justify the two opposing ethical systems?
I’ve read your book. I’ve answered your questions. Will you read, and answer, mine?