Practical Antinomianism

Had a wonderful discussion yesterday morning at Circuit Winkel regarding the teaching on the third use (function) of the Law in the Lutheran Confessions. The brother pastor who was leading this discussion spoke of what he calls a “practical antinomianism” that seems to prevail in our Synod.

In other words, there seems to be a great weakness in our pastoral practice in the area of individual application of the keys. A pastor proclaims publicly from the pulpit God’s wrath against all kinds of sin and disobedience, but fails to follow through with this preaching when he is sitting one on one with a person who is living a sinful life. We let them off the hook, and do not tell them that their souls are in danger if they do not repent.

I think he is right on. As a pastor I know I have failed in this. In my sermons I have proclaimed God’s Word concerning sin, and yet have “provided soft pillows for the impious” (to use the words of Chemnitz) when I am face to face with a member who needs to be admonished. What makes this so hard? What do we fear? We fear the people. We fear their reactions when we tell them that they are living contrary to God’s holy Word. We fear losing them as members. You name it, we fear it.

What we should fear is being enablers. Ezekiel 33 is pretty clear: “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” We should be more afraid of God, and more afraid of what may happen to the person’s soul if he or she is not warned of the danger, than we are of that person’s reaction, or that he or she might not like us.

Easy to talk about; hard to do. We think, perhaps, that we are showing mercy, or being patient, or showing love, and that may very well be our motivation. But if we see someone heading down the river in a boat towards a waterfall, towards certain doom, and we smile and wave and act like everything is hunky-dory, how loving is that? It’s sort’ve an earthy analogy, but if I have a booger on my cheek, I’d want someone to tell me, though it might be embarrassing. But we should not be in the practice of pronouncing absolution before the proper time.

I don’t know what the answer is. Well, actually I do know. The solution is to stop being afraid of being disliked, or in my case, being afraid of making people feel uncomfortable, and just speak the truth in love. I pray constantly for the ability to do this, to be faithful, to sound the warning when I see the sword coming, and to speak peace to troubled consciences. God give us all strength to do our duty, even when it makes us or someone else uncomfortable.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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2 Responses to Practical Antinomianism

  1. Rev. Roderick Schultz says:

    Did you say Winkel and Lutheran Confessions in the same sentence? Nevermind, perhaps a topic for another post sometime. This post goes hand-in-hand with one on Pastor Peter’s blog Pastoral Meanderings regarding cohabitation; an issue I have found disturbingly much more prevalent within our church circles than I expected since becoming a pastor in ’08. FWIW

  2. koivwvia says:

    Simply put . . .

    Well put.. How . . . . . . ever . . .

    My saying so, and yours, is speaking of an arena in which being properly Law/Gospel is permitted, and yes, I say – permitted.

    In many congregations, especially those served by new or younger Pastors, such basic latitude is not permitted. Having been there, dealt with that (never successfully, since it cannot be dealt with successfully), I have great compassion for those Servants of the Word who get hammered for teaching and doing what is right, and the faithful souls among their flocks who wonder what in hell is going on – a true assessment of matters.

    Presently, a young, confessional pastor in my circuit is being systematically destroyed by a renegade congregation which insists on its rights as a congregation to do so. Not merely the Pastor, but his family and all those years of education and expense and all that goes with it.

    Yes, that is the price of what we do – I am old enough and calloused enough to stand up to anyone at my age and experience, but our young sons in the field do not deserve to be denigrated and abused, and many of them, paralyzed as they try to look out for their first responsibilities before the Lord Christ – their own families!

    Practical application of the Keys is often a death sentence for younger Pastors. Us old birds could care less in many ways – we have learned our lessons, and are not nearly as cowed by devil and his minions hiding under cover of members of congregations. But consolation where it is properly due, and Gospel pronounced over those who often need it and never ask – were I 26-27, and brand new to the real situation out here, I can understand both despondency and the self-protective instinct to back away from conflict as a matter of survival.

    Just saying . . .

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