Agapē & Eros: worldviews in conflict

 Agapē worldviewEros worldview
 God's loveFreedom in giving, even to sinnersN/A
 Neighborly loveContinues God's love, even for enemiesThe good in others is loved in order to attain God as the Highest Good
 Love for GodThankful response to God's loveGod satisfies deepest desires
 Self-love N/AThe basis of all other love

[based on Agape and Eros, pp. 217-219]

Transvaluation of all human values

Agape and Eros (pp. 202-204):

"Modern men," [Nietzsche] says, "hardened as they are to all Christian terminology, no longer appreciate the horrible extravagance which, for ancient taste, lay in the paradox of the formula, 'God on the Cross'. Never before had there been anywhere such an audacious inversion, never anything so terrifying, so challenging and challengeable, as this formula; it promised a transvaluation of all ancient values."... But "God on the Cross" is only another name for the Agape of the Cross... The idea of Agape is by no means self-contradictory. On the contrary, it is a quite simple and clear and easily comprehensible idea. It is paradoxical and irrational only inasmuch as it means a transvaluation of all previously accepted values.

Eternal election

"In short, the recognition of one's election and faith in the Gospel are identical... As regards those who believe only for a time, they are such solely because they do not believe the Gospel, which specifically promises also preservation in faith" (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, III: 483).

Unlike Calvinists, Pieper is saying there are true believers who fall away because they stopped believing the gospel. However, unlike many synergists, he is also saying they will return to faith since they are among the elect. In short, one's faith will be preserved in the end but not necessarily at every point in time. As Jesus prayed, Peter's faith did not finally fail even though he stopped believing for a time.

That is the gospel. Those who actually fall away and remain unrepentant instead need to hear the law: if they die in unbelief, they will be condemned.

One should not seek assurance of election according to speculations about God's hidden will but rather in the wounds of the Christ who as God reconciled the world to himself,  as Luther found. That good news is proclaimed by word and sacrament, through which the Spirit creates and sustains saving faith in the same gospel. Faith in that good news includes confidence in one's election.

These Reformed errors contradict that gospel:
1. The Calvinistic teaching that anyone who ever has saving faith can never cease to have such faith even if committing mortal sin.
2. The Arminian teaching that some among those who are not among the elect exercise true, saving faith.

Against the first error, Lutherans affirm that saving faith may be completely lost. Against the second error, Lutherans deny that saving faith may be finally lost.

"Upon this your confession"

"But when prior to the absolution we ask those desiring it whether they sincerely repent of their sins, believe in Jesus Christ, and have the good and earnest purpose henceforth to amend their sinful life, we do not mean to imply that the remission of sins is based on contrition, faith, and improvement of life... Our one aim in asking those questions before pronouncing absolution is not only to keep secure sinners from becoming fortified in their carnal security, but to console poor, brokenhearted sinners. Any other interpretation of our form of absolution would contradict the Gospel of grace and, instead of consoling burdened consciences, would drive them into the sea of doubt" (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, volume 3, page 201).

See pages 199-207 for further discussion. The unconditional nature of evangelical absolution is what distinguishes it from the various Reformed gospels. Pieper was not exaggerating when he said, "... for the Reformed the gospel is not even the news of a remission, but merely a proclamation of the conditions under which man can secure for himself the remission of sins" (page 203).

The gospel written in good works

What did Melanchthon mean when he said a conscience terrified by the law can find comfort in a promise connected to good works (Ap. 3:151-155)? The answer is not immediately obvious. Following David Scaer in seeing a third use of the law that is distinct from its first two uses can help here. Since the same word "law" can mean different things even within the sixth article of the Formula of Concord, let me clarify. By "law," I here mean the unchanging will of God. I will use the same word in a more narrow sense shortly.

Melanchthon said Christ often attaches promises to good works not only to destroy Epicurean delusions, but also to offer a variety of signs and testimonies for the terrified conscience
. A key to seeing how Melanchthon could find comfort for terrified consciences in those promises lies in properly distinguishing the second and third uses of the law, that is, between the law in the narrow sense and the fruit of faith, "against which there is no law."

The terrified conscience of Luther turned not only to the promise that those who believe and are baptized will be saved, but also to the promise that those who forgive are forgiven:
But there is here attached a necessary, yet consolatory addition: As we forgive. He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor. For just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches, but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord's Prayer, and says, Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc. This sign is therefore attached to this petition, that, when we pray, we remember the promise and reflect thus: Dear Father, for this reason I come and pray Thee to forgive me, not that I can make satisfaction, or can merit anything by my works, but because Thou hast promised and attached the seal thereto that I should be as sure as though I had absolution pronounced by Thyself. For as much as Baptism and the Lord's Supper, appointed as external signs, effect, so much also this sign can effect to confirm our consciences and cause them to rejoice. And it is especially given for this purpose, that we might use and practise it every hour, as a thing that we have with us at all times.
This is not
Presbyterianism's uncertain "inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made", but the very certainty of the gospel: "...if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, ... Thou hast promised and attached the seal thereto that I should be as sure as though I had absolution pronounced by Thyself."

Luther indeed found comfort in the promise of Mark 16. He also found comfort in the promise of Luke 6:37 and Matt. 6:14. He needed manifold consolation. After all, he subscribed to Melanchthon's statement that "we have need of external signs of so great a promise, because a conscience full of fear has need of manifold consolation. As, therefore, Baptism and the Lord's Supper are signs that continually admonish, cheer, and encourage desponding minds to believe the more firmly that their sins are forgiven, so the same promise is written and portrayed in good works, in order that these works may admonish us to believe the more firmly."
heure [hour]

Praying for the Spirit

And in order that we may come to Christ, the Holy Ghost works true faith through the hearing of the Word, as the apostle testifies when he says, Rom. 10:17: Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, [namely] when it is preached in its truth and purity. Therefore, whoever would be saved should not trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life, with which miserable Satan usually attacks and annoys godly hearts. But they should hear Christ [and look upon Him as the Book of Life in which is written the eternal election], who is the Book of Life and of God's eternal election of all of God's children to eternal life: He testifies to all men without distinction that it is God's will that all men should come to Him who labor and are heavy laden with sin, in order that He may give them rest and save them, Matt. 11:28. According to this doctrine of His they should abstain from their sins, repent, believe His promise, and entirely trust in Him; and since we cannot do this by ourselves, of our own powers, the Holy Ghost desires to work these things, namely, repentance and faith, in us through the Word and Sacraments. And in order that we may attain this, persevere in it, and remain steadfast, we should implore God for His grace, which He has promised us in Holy Baptism, and, no doubt, He will impart it to us according to His promise, as He has said, Luke 11:11ff : If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!
Formula Of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI, Paragraphs 69-71

What is the gospel of the kingdom?

According to the Synoptic Gospels, the apostles had announced the good news of the kingdom of God even before they understood that Jesus must die and rise again. By word and miraculous sign, they had proclaimed the truly glad tidings that Jesus had come to free Israel from death and from her demonic enemies and to preach good news to the poor, thereby fulfilling Messianic prophecy. Jesus' work to destroy Satan's kingdom continued as he died, rose, and ascended to heaven. The Son of the Virgin Mary now reigns with all power on heaven and earth.

St. Luke is particularly clear about the content of "the gospel of the kingdom." Jesus and the apostles heralded the gospel, the good news of the kingdom (Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16; Acts 8:12). Jesus was anointed as Messiah to announce to the poor the good news of liberty and healing (Luke 4:18-19, 43):
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Jesus proclaimed to the poor this good news of freedom from the curse (Luke 4:20):
Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
Jesus and the disciples not only proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, but actually brought the glad tidings of the kingdom as he healed the sick and cast out demons (Luke 7:22; 8:1-3; 10:9-11). By attending to that message rather than the things of this age, Mary of Bethany received the one thing needed, which would not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42). The very Consolation of Israel, One greater than Solomon, long foretold by the law and prophets, had come! His reign means the deliverance from all of the enemies of God’s people!

The message of Jesus to be heralded to the nations in the power of the Spirit was the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47-49). The fact that the main way the Spirit works in Luke-Acts is by empowering bold proclamation of that message means he brings the kingdom through the forgiveness of sins. That is as hard as making a lame man whole (Luke 5:23 = Mark 2:9 = Matthew 9:5): Jesus announced that message by the power of the Spirit (Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14, 18), just as he brought the kingdom through exorcism in the power of the Spirit (Luke 11:20 with Matthew 12:28). Indeed, he was rejected at Nazareth because he claimed to be the one who was empowered by the Spirit to heal the sick and to proclaim the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18-21); doing those things showed John's disciples that Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 7:22 = Matthew 11:4-5). The coming of the Spirit to Gentiles showed that they, too, should receive the baptism of forgiveness (Acts 10:47-48). Baptism in Luke-Acts is cleansing for repentance and forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16) and thus is included in the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed to the nations (Luke 24:47); those who believed the good news of the kingdom were baptized (Acts 8:12).

Just as healing was performed in Jesus' name, forgiveness through faith in his name was proclaimed (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:6; 3:16; 4:10-12; 10:43; 16:18). For through his disciples acting in his name, Jesus himself continues to heal and to proclaim the good news (Acts 9:34; 26:22-23). Jesus called sinners to repentance from the beginning of his ministry (Luke 5:31-32; 19:10), and the risen Lord still blesses sinners by turning them from their iniquities (Acts 3:26)—repentance as well as forgiveness is a gift from the now-exalted Prince (Acts 5:31).

The good news of salvation from sin and its curse is encapsulated in forgiveness through faith in Jesus’ name. This is "the good news of peace" (Acts 10:36-43; cf. 17:30-31):
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Paul, according to Luke, gives examples of how “all the prophets” bear witness of that (Acts 13:32-39):
And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, "'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.' And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.' Therefore he says also in another psalm, "'You will not let your Holy One see corruption.' For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Rejoice, believing the forgiveness of sins that has been proclaimed to you!