4laws

I've been told that the Four Spiritual Laws appear on some of our congregations' websites. While I don't think it is always necessary to re-invent the wheel, I'm not sure that this is a "wheel" which we should borrow uncritically.

Why? Let’s look at them:

1) "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." To call these statements “laws” is inaccurate. Laws are commands, explicit or implicit. Laws reflect an authority’s will, or they state the behavior which that authority expects. “Four Spiritual Truths” would be more accurate, but even then are problematic because they are not entirely true. The first part of the statement, “God loves you,” flows from God’s free grace and mercy, not from any binding authority that compels Him to it. The rest of the statement, “(H)e has a wonderful plan for your life” is certainly inviting. But it does not define “wonderful” clearly enough to be anything more than a baited hook. Jesus cautioned would-be disciples to count the cost of discipleship. The Bible says we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God. Early Christians glorified God that He found them worthy to suffer for the Name. I understand this would be a turn-off to most people if told upfront what “wonderful” might include. But to speak of discipleship as “wonderful” without further definition plays upon one’s imagination and most unbelievers do not think of “wonderful” in Biblical terms.

2) "Humanity is tainted by sin and is therefore separated from God. As a result, we cannot know God's wonderful plan for our lives." Once again, the first sentence is not objectionable. The dictionary defines “tainted” as that which has been “spoiled or damaged in quality or value.” Sin has indeed corrupted human nature. The second sentence is problematic. The result of sin is not ignorance of God’s plan, it is death! It is experiencing God’s righteous judgement! Anyone can pick up a Bible and gain knowledge of God’s plan. But the wedge that sin has driven between us and God is the loss of relationship. It is the absence of that relationship that will cause some to hear on the last day, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

3) "Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God." For the third time, the first sentence is fine, but the second sentence is again problematic. Is it bad grammar? I don’t know. But “we” is the subject of that sentence, so it reads, “we…restore a right relationship with God.” No, Jesus restores a right relationship between us and His Father. “We” are incapable of restoring anything!

4) "We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to receive the gift of salvation and know God's wonderful plan for our lives." There is no question that one’s faith must be in Jesus Christ as Savior. The question is, “How does it get there?” This “law” says “We” must place our faith there. Paul says that by nature I am spiritually dead. How am I, a spiritually dead person, going to trust anyone but myself? Here we note two things from Scripture: On the one hand, God’s spokesmen tell people, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” On the other hand, they make it clear that it is God who creates saving faith in the heart. “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (Eph 2:5).” “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5).” We have no instance where Peter, Paul, or one of the other apostles ever said to anyone who asked what they should do to be saved, “You can’t do anything; that’s the Spirit’s work.” But they do speak that way to Christians. For within a faith relationship it becomes clear that they made no decision for Christ, but that the Spirit had “called them by the Gospel and enlightened them (Luther’s Small Catechism, Article 3). John agrees when he says that Christians are “children born … not of human decision ... but born of God (John 1:13).”
As for the rest of the sentence, “and know God’s wonderful plan for our lives,” I repeat what I said above: anyone can pick up a Bible and learn what God has in store for His people.

Of course that’s not all there is to it. After listing the four spiritual “laws,” the reader is invited to pray this prayer: "God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness - the gift of eternal life! Amen!" Grouse about the “I place my trust in You” phrase all you want, but remember, Lutherans do sing, “I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus (LSB 729)” and “I Trust, O Lord, Your Holy Name (LSB 734)” at the same time as they confess that the Spirit alone works faith. Rather, there’s another issue here: cultivating responsible discipleship.

If one is instructed only to pray this prayer without further connection to the Church, has not a situation been created where seed is sown but not watered or fertilized? Jesus’ parable tells us what will happen in such cases. The faith relationship in Christ is so much more than repeating a prayer! Readers of such on our websites need to be directed to further growth through their congregation; doing nothing more for them is tantamount to child abandonment!