From "Preserving a God-given Heritage" Edited by Emerson Anderson, Evangelical Lutheran Bible Fellowship 1998, used with permission.
Will of Man
Orthodoxy believes that man has no capability to come to Christ or believe in Him as stated in Luther's explanation to the Third article of the Apostle's Creed:
"I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith; in like manner as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth . . . '' (Luther's Small Catechism Explained, pg.70. This will be herein referred to as SC.)
Orthodoxy would point to passages of Scripture such as Ephesians 2:1-3 and point out that man is totally dead and has no will or ability to come to Christ any more than a dead person can. To call a dead sinner to accept Christ would be synergism, which is man cooperating with God in his salvation.
Pietism also believes that man is totally dead and "cannot by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ the Lord or come to Him." Pietism would point out that the Holy Spirit is at work through the Word prior to salvation to enable the once bound will to freely choose to either accept or reject the Gospel invitation given by Christ. Pietism would point to the Catechism (SC.202) where in answer to the question, "How does the Holy Spirit call us?" the answer is given, "The Holy Spirit calls us by awakening in our hearts a deeps sense of sin, and inviting us to accept the grace of God in Christ."
Sverdrup's explanation understood that the Holy Spirit enlivens the will and invites and enables the lost sinner to accept Christ by an act of the will. Pietism would point also to our Lutheran Confessions where it is stated:
" . . . the change through the Holy Spirit's activity in the intellect, will, and heart of man whereby man through such working of the Holy Spirit is able to accept the offered graced." (Solid Declaration, Article II 537:3 in Tappert)
It is clear from this statement that the Confessions believe that the Holy Spirit works in the will of man prior to salvation so that he can accept Christ and His salvation. This is "Prevenient Grace''-the working of the Holy Spirit prior to salvation (hence the word prevenient) in man so that he can receive (by the Holy Spirit) what God offers him in the Gospel.
Pietism would also point to the Holy Scriptures where lost sinful mankind is called to accept Christ by an act of their will.
"But as many AS RECEIVED HIM, to them He gave the right to be- come children of God, even to those who believe in His name," John 1:12.
"Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice AND OPENS THE DOOR, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me," Revelation 3:20.
It is clear from these (and other Scriptures) that man must receive Christ by an act of his will because the Holy Spirit has worked on him to be able to do so.
Order of Salvation
Orthodoxy believes that there is no Order of Salvation. In other words, there is no process or steps that happen when the Holy Spirit converts a sinner. The Holy Spirit comes through the Word of God as the Gospel is presented and imparts faith directly in the heart of man without response on man's part. Therefore, any sinner who has any yearning or desire for Christ has been given faith by the Holy Spirit and is therefore saved and has faith, even though it would be very weak faith. If the Holy Spirit had not imparted faith, the dead sinner would not have any yearnings for someone in whom he didn't believe. Orthodoxy would point to many Scriptures such as John 3:16 where it is stated that to be saved and have eternal life is but to believe in Christ. This belief in Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel in the heart of man apart from the sinner's consent or strivings to be saved.
Pietism would point to Holy Scripture which teaches an Order of Salvation, that is, different orderly steps that the Holy Spirit works in mankind as He is bringing them to salvation. In Acts 26:17-18, we see the Order of Salvation presented before us:
"Delivering you from the Jewish people, and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, [The call], to open their eyes [Illumination] so that they may turn from darkness to light [Repentance and Conversion], and from the domain of Satan to God [Regeneration], in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me [Mystical Union and Sanctification].''
These are definite steps through which the Holy Spirit takes sinners as He brings them to salvation.
A person can go through many of the steps at the same time, a short period of time, or over a long period of time. Thus a person can be called by the Holy Spirit and shown his need for Christ and still not be saved until he experiences repentance and conversion to Christ.
To have a yearning for Christ does not mean that the sinner has appropriated Christ by faith. Pietism would point to the Small Catechism where the call is presented (SC. 202) and the sinner is awakened to his need (SC. 203). Notice that the Catechism has not said that the sinner is yet saved simply because he realizes his need for Christ. The Catechism goes on to tell us what the Holy Spirit uses to make sinners heed the call (SC. 204) and declares what is true and living faith-that a repentant sinner "lays hold of Christ as his only Savior from sin, death, and the power of Satan."
Pietism would also point to our Lutheran Confessions to show that a yearning is not true faith in Christ.
"The faith that justifies, however, is no mere historical knowledge but the firm acceptance of God's offer promising forgiveness of sins and justification. To avoid the impression that it is merely knowledge, we add that to have faith means to want and to accept the promised offer of forgiveness of sins and justification.'' (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV pg. 113:48 in Tappert)
The Confessions also teach that to want and yearn is not to have, but one must accept the offered grace.
Orthodoxy teaches that baptism is a means of grace, that is, a means that God has ordered that has certain physical attributes and confers invisible grace. It means that baptism is a means through which the Holy Spirit imparts faith. Orthodoxy would point to Holy Scripture:
"And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," 1 Peter 3:21.
Orthodoxy would correctly point out that the Holy Spirit gives faith in baptism. The Catechism bears witness to this as well (SC. 341):
"What benefit do we have from Baptism? Baptism works the forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting life to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare."
Orthodoxy would say that once a person is brought to faith through baptism, if they remain in that covenant, they are saved, a Christian, and headed for heaven.
Pietism believes these exact same promises about baptism as well. Pietism does not dispute the power of baptism or deny that a person can remain in that faith relationship bestowed at baptism. Pietism would point out, however, that for a person to remain in that baptismal covenant, there must be a conscious act of repentance of sin and a conscious act of turning to Christ after baptism. This is called conversion.
The faith that is bestowed upon an infant through baptism is an unconscious faith. An infant can't listen to the Gospel and make a conscious decision for Christ.
Therefore, there exists the need in every baptized person to come to conscious experience of repentance and faith. Pietism would point to Holy Scripture where Jesus Himself said:
''I tell you no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish," Luke 13:5.
Unless the baptized person has a conscious experience of repentance, Jesus says that they will perish. Jesus also said:
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned,'' Mark 16:16.
Jesus said that unless the baptized person believes, he won't be saved.
It has been demonstrated in the previous two points that true and living faith in Jesus Christ is to lay hold of Him and to accept Him by an act of the will. Pietism points out that this must be the experience of the baptized to remain in that baptismal covenant. Pietism would point to the Catechism and point out that the blessings of baptism come to those who believe (SC. 341) and (SC. 350) asks:
"What must we do to remain in the grace of our baptism? We must watch and pray and make diligent use of the Word of God and the Lord's Supper."
The Catechism points out the need for a true and a living faith in the baptized and the need to consciously believe, accept, and actively follow Jesus as Lord of their lives.
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