God welcomes all those who return to Him with love and open arms. But is that the end of the story? For the regional bishop of the Evangelical Regional Church in Württemberg, the “good news” is already over. He uses some bizarre arguments for his widespread cuddle gospel.
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Law and gospel are enough
On the occasion of the upcoming Reformation Day on October 31, 2023, the regional bishop of the Evangelical Regional Church in Württemberg, Ernst-Wilhelm Gohl, is giving people some well-intentioned advice. How, in his opinion, you can best get through life. What is needed “for a good life and for good decisions?” was the introductory question to his “Impulse for Reformation Day” (Source).
After a whole series of examples of what fate can happen to a person in this world and what wishes and needs can prevail, Bishop Gohl comes to the conclusion that nothing more is needed than the law and the gospel. This is how you get through life well and the right decisions can also be made this way.
Standing on its own, this can be advocated. But when it comes to interpreting the law and the gospel, the Protestant clergyman seems to find himself in a parallel world.
The occasion is Reformation Day
Reformation Day, in memory of Martin Luther, is an opportunity to shed light on the perspective of the great reformer. Accordingly, Luther strictly separated the law and the gospel from each other. “If you can distinguish law and gospel, then you have recognized the essentials. Then you will be clear in your faith and in your life,” is the Luther quote used by the bishop.
According to Gohl, Luther wanted to distinguish between the law and the gospel, although Luther also emphasized that both were necessary for a good life with God.
The law tells people what is right and how they should act “so as not to endanger order with others.” The Gospel says, “either way or even though you are the way you are, you are right. God gives you his love,” said the bishop.
What does the Bible say about the law?
Martin Luther rightly distinguished between the law and the gospel. Because the law shows people the “red line”. Crossing this line, i.e. breaking the law, is sin, 1 John 3:4:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.“
Sin is defined by the law and without such a law there would be no sin,Romans 7:8:
“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.“
Who do the laws come from? From God, the 10 Commandments (Info).
What exactly is the gospel?
The gospel is the “good news (of victory).” But victory over what? Victory over sin by living according to God’s will. The redemptive work of Jesus Christ freed man from the “curse of sin,” but did not thereby abolish the law. With His own blood sacrifice, Jesus Christ gave people a way out of the dilemma of being condemned to (eternal) death if they committed a sin. Living according to God’s will therefore primarily describes real faith and this results in a godly lifestyle. Man is saved through the grace of Jesus Christ through faith. This is the essential message of the gospel.
Strange gospel understanding
The regional bishop’s statement that the law sets the limits so that the order of others is not endangered could at best be tied to commandments five to ten, but does not affect commandments one to four. Furthermore, this sounds suspiciously close to the Hellenistic natural law “be your own law and do as you please as long as you do not infringe the rights of another”. This is rather the “categorical imperative” of Immanuel Kant, but not the law of God. Aleister Crowley also advocated the “do what you want” thesis.
Even worse is the description of the gospel. The bishop actually says that every person, no matter what they are like, is right. Because God loves all people.
If the bishop had said that God loves all people and therefore every person can come to him, regardless of what they are like, then this would have been true, but only half the truth. Because nowhere in the Gospel is it described that every person who has returned to God can remain as they were before. According to the bishop’s presentation, it would logically not matter whether it was a pious person or a notorious mass murderer; everyone is saved by the love of God.
A real paradox
The bishop objects that one should not assume that evil will disappear on its own because of God’s love, but then this statement culminates in a real paradox:
“Evil and its violence exist. In order to limit it, the law is needed,” said the bishop.
This shows that the bishop either did not understand something fundamental or that he was “unabashedly” spreading this thesis against his better judgment. Violence is evil, that’s right. But who or what defines that violence is evil? Other countries other manners. Different eras, different customs and values. Today the consumption of marijuana is still forbidden, so it is evil. Suddenly not tomorrow, why? Because the relevant law was abolished. The distinction between good and evil therefore already presupposes a law.
In a legal circle within human society, the state ensures the laws, i.e. the distinction between good and evil. God defined His laws for all of humanity and also as the supreme authority. And He also defines what is good and what is evil. However, while the state can change the laws at any time or, more recently, bend and break them as they please, God’s laws remain absolutely unchanged. Matthew 5:18:
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.“
The bishop, and therefore the head overseer of the sheep flock, thinks worldly at best, but not according to the gospel. The “limitation of evil” based on laws also has points of contact with the erroneous works-based righteousness (Info).
The trivialized parable
Because this misdirection still needs to be substantiated, the bishop used a parable of Jesus and simply omitted a key message in the context. He describes the parable of the prodigal son. After a period of “little life”, he returns to his father. The father joyfully takes his son in his arms and prepares a big celebration for him. “This is gospel,” said the bishop. “Peace, joy and pancakes”.
However, the regional bishop left out something essential. It is not just repentance and certainly not staying in one’s previous life that leads to the desired goal, but rather confession of guilt, repentance, asking for forgiveness and refraining from living a life of sin in the future.
Not only did the son return to the father and throw himself into his arms, but the son also showed genuine remorse. Luke 15:21:
“And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.“
The older brother of the returned son could not understand all this and protested,Luke 15:29-30:
“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.“
However, the father objected and reassured,Luke 15:31-32:
“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.“
An unchanged son?
What would the father say if the returned son continued to squander the property in his father’s house – in the words of the brother – with invited whores? Would the father simply tolerate the bringing home of the life of misery (sins) like that? Absolutely not! Sin has no place in the Father’s house.
Every person, without exception, can return to God in repentance and penance. But equally, without exception, no one can remain the same as they were before. To keep this quiet is not only grossly negligent, but also destructive for every person who relies on God, without exception, to save all people in the end because of his love.
Plain text on this!
As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways
The Protestant churches under the umbrella of the EKD are clearly interested in misleading people with a widespread “cuddly fluffy gospel”. The God of love will be reconciled with all people (Info). Sin is now turning away from God (Info). And baptism is already the ticket to the kingdom of heaven (Info). The “false prophet” as he lives (Info).
Bible verses from King James Version