Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Justification: The doctrine upon which the church stands or falls

TurretinFan has done some very interesting research on the quote attributed to Luther that Justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. His article can be found here. I'm far more interested in those quotes which misrepresent Luther, but indeed even the popular slogans attributed to him, if proven to not be his, deserve scrutiny.

I vaguely recall when David Waltz began bringing the validity of this quote into question. At the time, I recall thinking, "um... and?" To view Waltz's research on this, see this link.

I think Waltz has realized that the sentiment of the quote is indeed Luther-esque. There isn't much to really quibble over. In fact, if you go through What Luther Says by Ewald Plass, you can find quite a few quotes that say things like: "If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time" (W 40 I, 48); "This doctrine [justification] is the head and cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour..." (W 30 II, 651); "When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen" (W 40 I, 72).

Waltz quotes Luther stating:

In this epistle, therefore, Paul is concerned to instruct, comfort, and sustain us diligently in a perfect knowledge of this most excellent and Christian righteousness. For if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost. And those in the world who do not teach it are either Jews or Turks or papists or sectarians. For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the Law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground. Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness; that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works. (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works – Volume 26: Lectures On Galatians 1535, trans. Jaroslav Pelikan, p. 9.)

Waltz can at least conclude from his own research that the phrase was not coined in the early 18th century (1718) by Valentin E. Löscher. Such people like R. Albert Mohler, Jr conceded this point too hastily:

"I acknowledge the point made by Richard John Neuhaus that the first recorded use of this formulation is found in Valentius Loescher, who in 1718 used it to correct the Pietists. I reject his further claim that this formulation indicts contemporary evangelicals qua evangelicals. It certainly does indict those who claim to be evangelicals, but who preach a gospel of health, wealth, prosperity, consumerism, self-esteem, or good works" [Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 5 (vnp.5.4.4) p. 11 footnote 21].

Tfan demonstrated the quote does indeed go further back. Perhaps Mr. Waltz can enlist the expert Catholic research team of DA, Steve Ray, and Paul Hoffer, who together spent quite a lengthy amount of time (well, not Ray, that's for sure), verifying my charge that Steve Ray misquoted Luther, and in fact hadn't even read the context of the quote he cited.

I highly recommend TFan's research!





Update: Tfan directed me to page vii in Alister McGrath's Iustita Dei (available here). see footnote 1:

For the sense and origins of this celebrated phrase, see F. Loofs, “˜Der articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae´. It is necessary to challenge Loofs upon several points, particularly his suggestion that the phrase is first used in the eighteenth century by the Lutheran theologian Valentin L¨oscher in his famous anti-Pietist diatribe Vollst¨andiger Timotheus Verinus oder Darlegung der Wahrheit und des Friedens in denen bisherigen Pietistischen Streitigkeiten (1718″“21), and is restricted to the Lutheran constituency within Protestantism. This is clearly incorrect. The Reformed theologian Johann Heinrich Alsted uses the phrase a century earlier, opening his discussion of the justification of humanity coram Deo as follows: “˜articulus iustificationis dicitur articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae´ (Theologia scholastica didacta (Hanover, 1618), 711). Precursors of the phrase may, of course, be found in the writings of Luther himself ““ e.g., WA 40/3.352.3: “˜quia isto articulo stante stat Ecclesia, ruente ruit Ecclesia´. For more recent reflection, see Schwarz, “˜Luthers Rechtfertigungslehre als Eckstein der christlichen Theologie und Kirche´.

14 comments:

Bill Cork said...

It's not "a" doctrine upon which the church stands or falls, but THE doctrine upon which it stands or falls. Let's not lose sight of that, regardless of the provenance of the technical phrase.

Thus, in the Smalcald Articles, justification is "the first and chief article." "On this article stands all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubt about it. Otherwise everything is lost, and the pope and the devil and whatever opposes us will gain victory and be proved right."

The Catholic church agreed in the JDDJ that justification could be "a" criterion by which to judge what the church says or does--but Lutheranism has always held it is "the" criterion.

James Swan said...

point taken.

David Waltz said...

Hello James,

Apart from the recommendation to “enlist the expert Catholic research team of DA, Steve Ray, and Paul Hoffer” (did not know that they were a team; and BTW, you forgot to mention the Reformed folk who have also incorrectly attributed the phrase to Luther—e.g. Gerstner, Sproul, White, et al), a great post!

I really appreciated the link to McGrath. For the record, I own the first and third editions, but have only read the first edition cover to cover. Your link sure got me wondering about what he might have said in the first edition, so upon checking it I ‘discovered’ that he indeed mentions J.H. Alstead in a footnote (see volume 2, page 193, footnote 3), with a slight variation. Much to my surprise I had the footnote HIGHLIGHTED! But given the fact that I read the 2 volumes back in the late 90’s, I am not surprised that I had forgotten it.

So, it seems I need to make a correction concerning the first usage of the phrase to Alsted. Thanks again for the post. (Will hopefully be able to do so tomorrow.)


Grace and peace,

David

James Swan said...

I really appreciated the link to McGrath.

That was TFan's find. Likewise, I have a few editions of McGrath's book as well, and did not recall it.

you forgot to mention the Reformed folk who have also incorrectly attributed the phrase to Luther—e.g. Gerstner, Sproul, White, et al

Well, it hasn't been determined Luther did not actually say it. On the other hand, the sentiment of the saying is indeed Luther's, so there really isn't any need to chastise the writings of Sproul, Gerstner, and White. It would be much different if the quote was saying something Luther did not believe, and Gerstner, Sproul, and White put it forth as if he did.

When I critique Roman Catholic citations of Luther, I usually don't nitpick them. I point out gross distortions and mis-citations. That's why this quote you and Tfan have looked into didn't spark my interest- it is what Luther believed.

David Waltz said...

>> That was TFan's find.>>

Actually, it was Dr. Clark’s. John Bugay provided the following link in the combox of TFs thread on this issue:

http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/what-is-the-article-of-the-standing-or-falling-of-the-church/


Grace and peace,

David

James Swan said...

Actually, it was Dr. Clark’s.

David,Tfan had e-mailed it to me, and he allowed the comment on his blog which gave you the information you needed. If he didn't do this, you'd probably still researching it.

Speaking of nitpicking...

David Waltz said...

Hey James,

I keep forgetting to ask you a question; while tracking down English versions of Luther’s “Lectures/Commentary On Galatians” (other than Pelikan’s), I learned that it was one of the earliest English translations of Luther’s works (1575). However, I have been unable to identify the actual name of the individual who did the first translation—do you happen know who it was?


Thanks much,

David

David Waltz said...

>> David,Tfan had e-mailed it to me, and he allowed the comment on his blog which gave you the information you needed. If he didn't do this, you'd probably still researching it.

Speaking of nitpicking...>>

Me: OK, I am really at a bit of a loss here James: how on earth can you say that I was “nitpicking”? Honestly, I don’t get; I am trying to have charitable and accurate dialogue here.

As for “probably still researching it”, I was done until this thread, and TFs. I want the most accurate knowledge available; as such, I have sincerely appreciated both threads.


Grace and peace,

David

James Swan said...

do you happen know who it was?

Off the top of my head, no. I'd have to poke around a bit.

Turretinfan said...

I found it by the assistance of Mr. Bugay by the assistance of Dr. Clark, who may himself have had assistance in finding it in McGrath, who had assistance from yet another person.

It's fun how these research projects can build on the work of others.

James Swan said...

I am really at a bit of a loss here James: how on earth can you say that I was “nitpicking”?

Well, in regards to the dialog between you and TF, he found it- but this is one of those things that really doesn't matter...who found what, which is why I classified it as nitpicking. I was actually amazed you took the time to bring it up.

Recently, I read a comment from DA in which he basically used a bunch of my research as his own. In fact, many of the points he made were things I corrected him on! Did he note this? No. Should he have? Well, information online is information. I'm just glad he's stopped with particular bits of misinformation. That was enough of a thanks, knowing that I helped someone with the "fullness of truth" be truthfull.

Alexander Greco said...

James said: Recently, I read a comment from DA in which he basically used a bunch of my research as his own. In fact, many of the points he made were things I corrected him on! Did he note this? No. Should he have? Well, information online is information. I'm just glad he's stopped with particular bits of misinformation. That was enough of a thanks, knowing that I helped someone with the "fullness of truth" be truthfull.


Me: James, I know that you don't let me post here anymore, and to be honest I have not been over here in months, but I wanted to say that if what you are saying is true, then this is shameful indeed.

Plagiarism is one of those things which really ticks me off. I don't care if it is information online. If DA did it, then I have zero respect for the thief.

James Swan said...

Plagiarism is one of those things which really ticks me off

I don't think it qualifies as full plagarism. It was research I had done on various Luther misquotes, some in fact that DA had been using which I pointed out.

I found it though, quite ironic when another Roman Catholic used the same Luther misquotes, and DA came to the rescue with the correct information.

Again, it's correct information, and I don't think it would qualify as "mine." I was simply the person who dug in and mined out some facts. Had DA said something like, "I at one time used the same misquotes, but now I know differently" this would be more truthful.

L P said...

Though it does not matter to me if Luther originated the quip, the more important thing is that it is TRUE, it is THE article upon which the church stands or falls.

How is a man made right with God? From this question and how it is answered, all religions proceed.

LPC