Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Responding to Paul Hoffer on Morality and the Gospel

In response to anonymous comments on a previous post, Paul Hoffer wrote:
Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller's murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays. Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.

Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian. Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book "The Cost of Discipleship." He wrote:

[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." pg. 30.

Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller's church is truly horrific because it justifies one's sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.
I answer, going section by section:

"Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller's murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays."

Uh ... no. The reason that Dr. Tiller's murder was intrinsically wrong is because men are created in God's image and their lives cannot lawfully be intentionally ended by their fellow men without God's authority.

Uzzah was killed instantly for his sin, without the chance to repent. Furthermore, in general, capital punishment is prescribed by God's word as the appropriate punishment for numerous crimes (as I've laid out elsewhere). The issue is not the fact that death takes away the ability to repent, but that to lawfully kill another person intentionally, one must have divine warrant.

"Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on."

He is treated as a martyr by some, to be sure. However, his death will actually discourage other young doctors from taking the path of becoming professional murderers. So, it's really hard to guage whether his murder will have positive or negative consequences. Consequentialism, however, is a flawed ethic.

"Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian."

Many call themselves Christians who are not Christians.

"Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book 'The Cost of Discipleship.'"

I don't have any way of knowing whether he was familiar with those writings or not. I assume this is just a bit of rhetorical flourish by Mr. Hoffer.

"[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession."

I wonder whether Mr. Hoffer is willing to direct Bonheoffer's cannon Rome-ward? How often are we reminded of the fact that church discipline in the Roman church is largely lacking!

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

The concept of "cheap grace" is one error into which one can fall. It is the error of the libertines. But there is an equally dangerous error: the error of grace cheapend by purchase. The error of legalism that supposes that one's own works contribute to one's justification in the sight of God, or that somehow one's personal righteousness is the basis of or the maintenance of a right relationship before God. Mr. Hoffer is locked on one error, but has he forgotten the other?

"Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller's church is truly horrific because it justifies one's sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner."

An antinomian gospel purports to justify sinners, just as a legalist gospel purports to justify "righteous" folks. Both are serious errors, for justification is by faith alone - but a true faith is one that comes out of a love of Christ - one that will consequently be accompanied by fruits of that love of Christ. Mr. Hoffer seems to be good at straking the other ditch for its errors - but we invite him to come out of the opposite ditch and join us on the straight and narrow road provided by Christ.

"Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there."

Yes, both the legalist and the orthodox can decry the antinomian. Nevertheless, it would be a false ecuminism to suggest that because we both reject the false gospel of antinomianism (live as you please) we are of one mind.

-TurretinFan

1 comment:

natamllc said...

Without much to do about it one can say truthfully how refreshing it is to read the Truth from a sinner and find hope in the Word of Promise and even go beyond that and claim, "I too" am one of those!

Without a doubt TF, it is certainly true that there is a great gulf of difference between the Spirit of Grace that is heard in your words and the lack of such in the words of the other, Mr. Hoffer.

My only prayer is he is just confused, called and elected, and perhaps God is fishing with your bait and line to bring him in? If that is not the case, his doom is sure, that is, if he is not one of the Elect!