Monday, January 20, 2014

Did Luther Deny Faith Alone in Favor of Faith and Works for Justification?

I came across these links written by a "California litigation attorney in practice for thirty years" who studied "Classical Greek and Latin and achieved designation as a Classical Language Scholar":

Did Luther in 1537 Condemn Paul As A False Prophet?


Did Paul Negate The Law's Further Applicability?

The author of these links claims "Luther radically but quietly changed his salvation-doctrine by 1541. At that point, he too rejected faith alone as sufficient for believers." What appears to be meant is that early on Luther held that faith alone saves but then went on to hold salvation is attained by a combination of faith and works. Sometimes this author refers to this as "double justification" (and also he calls it the view of Erasmus). The author best explains what he's talking about by documenting Tyndale's supposed abandoning of faith alone for faith alone initiating salvation and then subsequently works must join faith to complete the process. If works do not accompany faith, salvation is lost. The works are keeping the law obediently. Of Luther, the author states:
"Faith alone was all that was required to receive God’s forgiveness at all times, according to the young Luther."
"Did Tyndale turn Luther around to accept double justification, and abandon faith alone as justification of a believer? Yes, he did."
The author argues that Luther had great respect for Tyndale, and it was Tyndale's influence on Luther that provoked him to change his doctrine of faith alone for that of faith and works:
Could that tremendous respect have moved Luther to himself change his own doctrine on faith alone? It most certainly appears to be the best explanation for what happened to Luther in mid-1531 to the end of his life. The evidence can be found in four primary places: (1) the Catechisms of 1531; (2) Luther’s revolution on his view of the Mosaic Law in 1537; (3) the Lutheran agreement proposed at the Regensburg Diet of 1541; and (4) the actions of Luther’s close aid, Melancthon, in 1548 after Luther’s death, where he led the Lutheran Church to accept double justification as official doctrine from 1556 to 1580. (It was overturned in 1580.)
A thorough response to the information presented by this author would take quite some time, and in essence, it has already been achieved by Edward Engelbrecht's recent book, Friends of the Law. Englebrecht works historically through Luther's career and analyzes his comments on the use of the law. One particular writing from Luther singled out by Engelbrecht is a sermon originally appearing in Luther's popular 1522 Winter Postil, Epistle For New Year's Day (Galatians 3:23-29). There Luther says,
Thus faith redeems us from the Law not in a bodily way, so that we go here and the Law goes there, and thus we part ways from each other so that we are never under it. Rather [faith redeems us in such a way] that we have done enough [to satisfy] its demands. We now know and have what [the Law] wants us to know and have, namely, the Holy Spirit, who causes us to love it. The Law does not want to be worked, and it is not content with works; it wants to be loved and is satisfied with love. without love it would not set us free nor be paid off. Thus we had to remain uder it with all our loveless works; we had no peace in our conscience toward it; it always punished us as sinners and transgressors, and threatened us with death and hell- until Christ came and gave us His Spirit and love through faith which is preached in the Gospel. Then we were set free from the Law, so that it never demands, never punishes, but lets the conscience rest, never terrifies with death and hell, and has become our friend and companion. (LW 76: 12-15)
In other words, a person who is saved by faith alone is given the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit changes the heart from a Law hater to a Law lover.  Luther says a bit later that whoever believes by faith in Christ "puts Him on":
Therefore, faith is such a great thing that it saves and justifies a person, for it brings him all the blessings in Christ, in which the conscience takes comfort and trusts. Because of that it must become happy in Christ, eager to do all good and avoid all evil. It never fears death or hell or any evil, since it is very richly clothed in Christ. That is what "satisfying the Law" and "never being under it" means, for the Holy Spirit is there with clothes for the soul, which results in a completely different person. (LW 76:20-21).
Many more examples could be provided, and as I've read Luther, this has been the position I've found consistently throughout his writings. Certainly Luther believed that faith alone saves, but he never taught that faith and the Holy Spirit leave a person enslaved to their sins and haters of God and His Law. Of the early Luther Engelbrecht states,
[Luther] emphasized that justification changed the believer's attitude toward and use of Moses so that the believer no longer keeps the Law from compulsion. The Law, kept by Christ, could now be kept by those who were righteous through Christ... The believer has a new status by grace through faith so that he may now look upon the natural, moral law as a friend. He becomes a living tables of Moses and keeps the Law both inwardly and outwardly without constraint. (Friends of the Law, p.89).
I found the author of the links in question because he had cited one of my blog entries. I suggest that if he feels the need to respond to this entry, he throw this tadpole back and focus on Engelbrecht's study.

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