The Debate: Part II

In no way was I meaning to dip into the cesspool of false advertising…ok that’s a lie…I may or may not have desired to lead you to believe that I was going to be speaking heavily about these guys


Not to be confused with these guys


But the truth is that this post is going to jump right back into the meaty or should I say “heavy” stuff that is the Debate between Law and Gospel: Is there a distinction?  Or is there no distinction?  How does either view reconcile our understanding of the character and nature of God?  We continue from right where we left off in my Seminary topic from yesterday and I hope you enjoy.   Part II will look at the side of the debate that does not hold to a proper distinction of Law and Gospel.  Part III will pick up with the side of the debate that DOES hold to a distinction of Law and Gospel and will close out the rest of the paper concluding with the results of the research that I made.  If you do not enjoy deep, heavy or meaty theological thinking, well you should be fine…but you never know….I do love to gab but I am not as confident with the intellectual side of my thoughts as I am with my desire to share them.  So if you didn’t enjoy the bulk of the post yesterday now is the time to run away from the nightmare that is below


How is God’s Character Understood in the Law/Gospel Debate     

Walther writes that both the Law and the Gospel are equally necessary.  “Without the Law the Gospel is not understood; without the Gospel the Law benefits us nothing.”[1]  What may seem as a very cut and dry understanding to the observer in that there is an observable distinction between God’s Law and His Gospel is not universally accepted.  It may be in words but not in actions or practice.  Traditionally, there have been two opposing views when it comes to how sinners are to respond to God’s Law and His Gospel.  One side of the debate does not in practice displaying any distinction between by the way that they preach and the way that they teach scripture.  Some will go so far as to reject the idea that justification is by faith alone and will adhere to the believe that man does indeed have a part in his or her justification and or salvation in the sense that there is something that they must do for God.  Or there are those who may claim that they adhere to the belief in justification by faith alone but will be heavy on Law in their preaching to the point where they in a sense teach that God’s favor can be influenced by how well sinners improve upon pleasing him by keeping his Law. What is taught and implied is that sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ but now they must provide the proper response that such grace deserves by Christian service, evangelism, discipleship, spiritual growth, spiritual discipline and work.  In a sense it a teaching of Law, Gospel, Law; killing the sinner, offering grace to the sinner and then killing the Christian.

It could be suggested that there is not necessarily any subscriber who would admit to being someone who affirms the label “no distinction” when it comes to Law and Gospel but it is likely that a misunderstanding can be made in what they more than likely adhere to.  The first observation here to be made is that they more than likely hold to a “no distinction” stance by insisting that God’s love, God’s favor, His salvation for sinners must receive an appropriate response from the sinner, proving their appreciation for God.  Without an appropriate level of thanks, one may suggest or question if saving faith is even in play for the sinner.  There is also an emphasis on the desire to want to please God and accepts the belief that sinners can please God in their works for Him.  This side believes that the sinner can live a life pleasing to God as a result of their growth in their relationship with God courtesy of their acts and works.  Again, this position might not ever be affirmed outright but in the way that they live their life and urge others to live theirs, this is implied indirectly.  Another motivation for infusing Law with The Gospel is that it is done with the intent to help assist in the sanctification of the individual in Christ.  It is seen as the more good works and keeping of the Law is in play, the more sanctified the sinner is becoming.  Without a heavy emphasis on the Law after the Gospel is preached, how can one know if they are growing in the faith is the usual thought.

To better understand this position, it may assist in observing some of the objections that they may have to the position that adheres to the belief in a proper distinction between Law and Gospel.  There is the ever present accusation of “Cheap Grace.” This is more or less the concept that those who adhere to an idea of grace without the passionate response that it so rightly deserves that they cheapen grace.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an enormous advocate of discipleship and say it as being a costly discipleship; to lessen the cost of the disciple for Christ in a sense would display an image of being a proponent of “cheap grace.”  In an article by Reverend Dr. Heino Falcke we read his explanation of Bonhoeffer’s position as that there needs to be a necessary striving of piety in the midst of the world, “in the midst of the burning political crises of the time.  Here prayed a person [Bonhoeffer] who, risking his whole existence, had “thrown himself into the arms of God”.  This was the spirituality of discipleship, that is, of “costly”, not “cheap grace”.”[2]

There is also the accusation that teaching a level of grace found in Law/Gospel preaching leads to antinomianism. Tullian Tchividjian, Grandson of the evangelist Billy Graham and Pastor of Coral Ridge, writes in his book “One Way Love,” about the accusation of antinomianism.  He accurately identifies this accusation as being a result of the following line of thinking

All right, so perhaps one-way love doesn’t promote laziness, but if you are telling people they can do whatever they want, won’t they…do whatever they want?  Won’t they indulge in all sorts of debauched behavior?  There seems to be a fear out there that preaching grace produces serial killers.  Or, to put it in more theological terms, too much emphasis on the indicatives of the Gospel leads to lawlessness.  Again, the formal name for the objection of lawlessness is antinomianism—preaching in such a way as to imply that the Law is bad and/or useless.  If the control and laziness objections tend to come equally from the religious and nonreligious world, then the antinomianism objection comes almost exclusively from the religious sphere.  After all, since our culture is already so permissive and morally lax, if we Christians don’t stand up for God’s standards of moral righteousness, His Law, then who will?  Is more grace really what this culture needs?  That doesn’t make sense.  It seems backwards and counterintuitive.  Unconditional pardon is probably the last thing lawless people need to hear, right?  Surely they’ll take advantage of it and get worse, not better.  After all, it seems logical that the only way to “save” licentious people is to show them more rules, intensify the exhortations to behave.[3]

This tongue in cheek response from Tchividjian assists in revealing the root deep objection to the preaching of Gospel void of an infusion of Law.



                [1] Ibid., 6.

                [2] Heino Falcke, “My Bonhoeffer: discipleship, peace, freedom,” The Ecumenical Review 63, no. 1 (2011): 117, accessed May 8, 2015,

                [3] Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace For An Exhausted World (Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2013), 190.


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Zachary James Cole

Born in Atlanta, Georgia. Living in Atlanta, GA. Well kinda, in a city NE of Atlanta in Metro Atlanta called Sugar Hill, but everyone close to ITP just says they are from Atlanta. Marine Veteran. Simul Iustus et Peccator. The verse that could best sum my life...Galatians 2:20...I am blown away by the Grace of God. What Jesus did for me just leaves me in awe and in thanksgiving...It was all Him...and the peace that comes with that is I am free to lose everything because I have everything in Christ.

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