The person I debated about Luther and Romans 3:28 asks on another blog post,
"I would like to know if anybody has any idea how Zwingli, whose 'reformation', which was concurrent with but independent of Luther's, could have failed to 'see' 'Salvation by Faith Alone', meaning 'belief only', in Scripture IF it is supposedly SO clear?"
He also stated something very similar to this in our debate:
"Interestingly, the independent but concurrent Swiss Reformation saw no such “doctrine” [faith alone] in Scripture, thereby proving that even those intent on reforming the Church “saw” Luther’s new concept of salvation in Scripture."
The question and information about Zwingli and the Swiss used by my opponent during our debate appears to be based on information taken from Alister McGrath's Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, a book he cited. When one reads the context, the point made by my opponent melts away. On pp.246-247. McGrath states:
"Luther's doctrine of justification won wide- but not universal- acceptance within early Protestantism. Zwingli and other eastern Swiss reformers of the late 1510's clearly entertained a vision of reformation that did not entail this idea and may even have been contradicted by it. Many Swiss and Rhineland reformers of the 1520's were nervous about the idea, believing that it suggested that Christians were relieved of any obligation to do good works. Bucer, perhaps showing his ethical sympathies with Erasmus of Rotterdam, set out a doctrine of double justification, which ensued a robust link between God's act of gracious acceptation and the human response of grateful moral action. Some Anabaptist writers also distanced themselves from it, again expressing anxieties about its biblical foundations and moral implications.
Luther responded by calming such fears- particularly in his 'Sermon on Good works"- arguing that all he was saying was that good works are the natural result of having been justified, no the cause of justification. Far from destroying morality, Luther simply saw himself as setting it in its proper context. Believers perform good works as an act of thankfulness to God for having forgiven them, rather than in an attempt to persuade or entice god to forgive them in the first place."
The context answers his question and point directly. It appears to me that the confusion by the Swiss (according to McGrath) was falsely thinking Luther's idea of "faith" was a mere mental assent. In our debate in which this was brought up, there appeared to be a lack of understanding by my opponent of Luther's position on the relationship between faith and works and law and Gospel. I have written extensively on it in my paper, Did Luther Say: Be A Sinner And Sin Boldly? A Look at Justification By Faith Alone and Good Works in Luther’s Theology.
In the Library of Christian Classics volume on Zwingli and Bullinger, the introductory essay explains,
Again in accordance with his basic teaching, Zwingli was impelled as Luther was to a new and evangelical understanding of the doctrine of justification. Justification became the sovereign and creative declaration of God by which those who are elected to faith in Jesus Christ are accepted as righteous on account of the merits of Christ. The true ground of justification is not the human act of faith, but the life and death of Jesus Christ in which the justice and mercy of God are conjoined in a single act of divine goodness. As Zwingli put it in The Exposition of the Faith, goodness as justice required the sacrifice and goodness as mercy provided it. The means by which justification is applied to the individual is saving faith, that faith which is not merely rational assent, but a movement of the whole nature by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. Good works still retained an honourable place in this view of the matter, for it was stressed that they are the necessary but spontaneous fruits of a true faith. But of themselves good works could have no power to justify, for it is God who reckons righteous and it is God who himself produces the acceptable fruits of righteousness. Again, the emphasis upon free justification by faith did not mean the negation of the Law, for as a permanent expression of the divine will for man the Law continues both as a guide to the believer and as a warning and restraint to the evil-doer. What Zwingli did negate was legalism, and especially that mediaeval form of legalism which had given rise to such corrupt and fictional notions as purgatory, indulgences, the power of the keys, the treasury of merit, prayers for the dead and the merit of works of supererogation." [G.W. Bromiley (ed.), Zwingli and Bullinger (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), pp.34-35].
"In the handling of such controverted themes as justification, purgatory and the Church, Zwingli does not differ substantially from other Protestant leaders. He teaches justifcation by faith, but is careful to point out that the man of true faith will fulfil the works of the law by an inward compulsion" [Ibid. p. 243]
For Luther, faith was not simply mental assent. “Faith,” wrote Luther, “is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.” Luther scholar Paul Althaus notes: “[Luther] also agrees with James that if no works follow it is certain that true faith in Christ does not live in the heart but a dead, imagined, and self-fabricated faith." The book of James describes a real true faith in Christ: a real saving faith is a living faith. If no works are found in a person, that faith is a dead faith (c.f. James 2:17). James then describes a dead faith: the faith of a demon. A demon has faith that God exists, that Christ rose from the dead- I would dare say a demon knows theology better than you or I. But is the faith of this demon a saving faith? Absolutely not. Luther says, “Accordingly, if good works do not follow, it is certain that this faith in Christ does not dwell in our heart, but dead faith…”
Some may question why I would even mention Luther and James in the same sentence. Luther eventually came to harmonize James and Paul, but still felt he was a second century writer, and therefore did not produce a canonical book. Note these citation and comments from Ewald Plass's What Luther Says (Volume 1):
THEREFORE if a man lives on in sin, the conclusion is justified that he does so because he lacks the justifying faith, which always sanctifies, Luther contended in the fourteenth and fifteenth conclusion of a series of theses on faith in 1520.
1471 A Faith Without Works Is Not Saving Faith
14 Works infallibly follow justifying faith, since faith is not idle. . . .
15 It is, therefore, correctly said:Faith without works is dead; in fact, it is not even faith. (W 6, 85 f — E op var arg 4, 340—SL 19, 1431 f)
THAT LUTHER referred to James 2:17 in conclusion fifteen became certain when, many years later, his own explanations of these sentences were found. He had the following to say about his fifteenth conclusion.
1472 St. Paul and St. James Agree
Fruits do not make the tree, but a tree is known by its fruits. Now just as a tree that does not bear any fruit is wood, a piece of hypocrisy that is similar to a tree, so faith is a piece of hypocrisy if it does not produce works. ... He (St. James) wants faith to justify its genuineness by works; not that man is justified before God by works, but that the faith which justifies before God is recognized by the witness of its works. We must, therefore, well understand his statement: "Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works?" (James 2:21). For Rom. 4:2 expressly contradicts this: "If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." However, James speaks of the works of faith. (He says) that these manifest and show faith, not that they make it or that anyone is justified by them. This appears from the text, for he teaches that a person should show his faith by the good works which he does toward his brother and sister who are naked, etc. (2:15 f.). It is, therefore, a different matter to speak of faith and its power, as Paul does, and, on the other hand, to speak of faith and its manifestation and demonstration, as James does. (W 6, 95f—E op var arg 5, 281—SL19, 1432)