This was a good post from Steve (the Old Adam)’s website. The basic premise is the law does not make us willing because it lacks the power of the Gospel and the power of a righteoussness “in Christ” who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
Born in the shadow of a law-dominated Roman Catholic church, Luther’s theology recovered the priority of the Gospel and then emphasized a proper distinction between Law and Gospel. And yet, the heirs of Luther (and all Christianity for that matter) continues to struggle with the proper use of the Law. To say that the issue was settled by Luther (or the Lutheran confessions) overstates the case.
First, Luther’s views did not necessarily hold sway over Calvin and the other reformers – so modern evangelicalism has evolved a different view of the Law than Lutheranism. Beyond that, Lutheran theologians themselves have continued to struggle with how the Law fits into the life of the Christian. And this struggle spills over into the pastor’s way of preaching the Law and how the individual Christian responds to such preaching.
The debate within Lutheranism revolves around the so-called three uses of the Law commonly called the mirror, the curb and the guide. For Lutherans at least, the first two uses are never at issue. The third causes all the mischief.
The essence of the controversy was brought home to me when I recently went back to my little brown catechism, the version I used in confirmation classes fifty years ago. There I found the three uses, just as I had remembered them:
Immediately I noticed parenthesis inserted around the last clause of use #3. (that we willingly do according to His commandments.) and hand-written in the margin was the sentence: “Law cannot make us willing.”
The handwriting was not mine however. I recognized as it as my father’s. And it was written in ink! (a sin of the first order). What was up with that? Had my dad at some point taken my catechism and made his own editorial comments in it?