Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mark's thoughts: Thoughts about the Law, exhortation and being Lutheran

During the last four years I have written a number of blog posts that deal with the topics of soft antinomianism, the Law and exhortation. In these I have identified a problem that is new and unique to modern Lutheranism - an inability and even refusal to preach about new obedience and good works.  This form of antinomianism stood outside the two categories of antinomianism that Lutheranism had defined in the sixteenth century.  After identifying the problem, it was clear that a new term of reference was needed in order to speak clearly about a new phenomenon.  And so "soft antinomianism" was born.  I have sought to identify and explain soft animonianism, and to show on the basis of Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and the practice of Lutherans in the past that it is wrong.  In rejection of this I have advocated what the Lutheran Confessions clearly teach on the basis of Scripture - that being Lutheran includes exhortation for Christians to live in ways that are prompted and made possible by the Gospel.  For ease of access, I have brought together all of the posts into one place and provide a brief description of each one.

The blog post that started it all.  A look at Titus and the manner in which Paul repeatedly calls for good works – a call which he grounds in the Gospel.

A consideration of some of the key issues in the discussion of “sanctification” including the distinction between sanctification, new obedience and “sanctification”; regeneration by the Spirit and cooperation in new obedience; the possibility of growth and progress in new obedience; and the law’s third use.  I had just come to realize how big the problem is.

A discussion of what I have termed “soft antinomianism” in which the robust presence of language that exhorts or admonishes Christians to godly living and good works is seen as a diminishing and denial of the Gospel in preaching.  This is followed by a discussion of Martin Luther's antinomian theses and disputations.  The term "soft antinomianism," was first coined here.

Martin Luther says in his 1535 Galatians commentary, “Therefore it is as necessary that faithful preachers urge good works as that they urge the doctrine of faith,” and “This is why faithful preachers must exert themselves as much in urging a love that is unfeigned or in urging truly good works as in teaching true faith.”  I discuss how this language flies in the face of much Lutheran understanding about preaching and teaching today.


A discussion of how the apostolic pattern of exhortation and admonition should help guide our preaching today.


Lutheran "synergism" and the regenerate will


A discussion of synergism – the good kind.  Justification is a result of divine monergism.  Sanctification (understood in the narrow sense) is a result of divine monergism. But new obedience takes place through synergism (cooperation) of the new man working with the Spirit.


Is an increase in new obedience possible? Scripture says yes!


A discussion of how both Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions state that an increase of in new obedience is possible, and what this means.


Four things Lutherans believe about the Law that are false ... and true


A discussion of how the simultaneous presence of the new man and the old man in the believer necessitates that we balance two sets of truths.


What is soft antinomianism? 


A discussion of what soft antinomianism is, why the term “soft antinomianism” is an accurate and helpful term of reference, and a brief account of its history.

The elephant in the room - Presuppositions of soft antinomianism

An examination of why soft antinomianism operates in this way in the way it does.


An example of soft antinomianism  


Some say soft antinomianism doesn't exist. This is a discussion of a classic example.

Walther's Law and Gospel on exhortation and good works

An examination of Walther's Law and Gospel which shows that Walther offers a very different understanding of the Law and the preaching task than is offered by the soft antinomianism of modern Lutheranism.


David Scaer describes the problem of soft antinomianism

There are some who say that soft antinomianism does not exist.  David Scaer provides a description of LCMS preaching today that matches it precisely.

WWJD - Luther says good question, when you take it up second

Is Jesus an example and should we speak about him in this way?  In his Church Postil Luther says that the answer is yes.


Take the Jesus quiz! 


Our response to Jesus' words in Luke 6:36-38 reveals whether we are Lutherans or modern distortions of this.


Lutherans aren't supposed to talk this way


Luther's words in the Church Postil for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, Mt 6:24-34 will surprise a modern Lutheran.


Luther's striking Christmas "Gospel" 


Luther cannot speak about the birth of Jesus Christ without talking about what those who believe in Jesus Christ now do.


A sermon on 1 Cor 13 that summarizes 


A summary of the blog posts in sermonic form.


The Martin Luther is who is never heard today


Luther does not just assume that living a new life in Christ and putting to death sin is true for the Christian.  In the Church Postils he regularly speaks about it.  


A Response to Chad Bird's "Gospel Phobia" 


A careful discussion of the Law and exhortation in response to a classic example of soft antinomianism.


Daring to be Lutheran ... with Martin Luther


Daring to be Lutheran includes exhortation about what Christians are to do.  It did for Martin Luther.




  1. Thank you, Pastor Surburg, for the clarity of your various writings on this subject and for your persistence in pursuing this subject.

    He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

  2. Thank you for compiling this in one location. Also, along this topic, would you consider blogging about the Lutheran difference between sanctification and new obedience? And if you do, please let me know. Thanks for the consideration.