-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Köberle on the Relation of Justification and the Nova Vita

This is a very interesting, if a little simplisitic depiction of the various views of Melanchthon, Luther, Osiander, and Rome between justification and the new life. Adolf Köberle adopts what he believes is Luther's position. Köberle sees the relation between justification and sanctification as paradoxical, as he believes is the position of Luther. While I'm not sure if Luther saw it as such, I certainly don't. Köberle can talk of justification and sanctification as essentially the same act of God though distinguished theologically and by their "inner sequence." I guess I would say that I have a more simplisitc view of their relation. I see them as stemming from the same motivation of God, to restore mankind into a proper relationship with him and with the rest of creation, but not as the same act. I see objective justification as the whole of God's promises to us through Christ, encompasing the whole of salvation history including the Substitutionary Atonement of Christ, the promise of the Holy Spirit's ministry of the Word establishing faith, the promise of sanctification's beginning and consumation upon death, and everlasting life in communion with God and neighbor; that is, Christ's work on the cross brings with it all the promises of the Deus pro nobis, while the individual works-- Atonement, subjective justification, sanctification, etc.--are essentially different.

I just read an excellent article that deals with the very same subject that Köberle talks of here. Though quite a bit longer, I would highly recommend it. It is by R. Scott Clark, entitled: "Iustitia Imputata Christi: Alien or Proper to Luther's Doctrine of Justification?" Clark gives a very thorough examination of the topic, especially of the evolution of Luther's thought, which is so important when trying to establish what Luther's "real" thoughts were. His conclusions are startingly similar to Köberle's.

"All the possible relations of justification and the nova vita came to the fore at least once during the period of the Reformation. Historically they can be designated by the names of Melanchthon, Luther, Osiander and the Council of Trent. What was produced later was partly a deepening, partly a mixture of the previous positions in which unfortunately the most successful solution, that of Luther, was the least considered.

"In the Apology Melanchthon still kept the justum pronuntiari et effici side by side, though the emphasis is already completely on the pardoning judicial decree of God. Following the publication of the Commentary on Romans, 1532, however, the word justification more and more loses its double meaning and at last receives an exclusively forensic character. It is possible to claim that without this sharpened, "disjunctive" form of the sola fide teaching could not have been maintained in the difficult crises of the following centuries. The rejection of every amalgamation not only brought to Melanchthon's theology the advantage of greater systematic clarity but it also really avowed in a unique way the central thought of the Reformation, "Thy loving kindness is better than life (Ps. 63:4). On occasion there are men to whom we must be grateful for having always said only one thing. This gratitude is owing to Melanchthon in the second half of the sixteenth century and to Herman Cramer and his spiritual kindred in the nineteenth century. It is true that both Holl (Rechtfertigungslehre des Protestantismus, pp. 18 seq.) and Hirsch (Die Theologie des A. Osiander, pp. 267 seq.) have pointed out, not without reason, that this separation of justification and renewal in the course of time brought with it questionable consequences. The preservation of the "article of a standing or falling Church" in the school of Melanchthonian orthodoxy cost something, for in time wide circles sought to satisfy their desire for renovation, that was here inadequately presented, in Pietism or Roman Catholic mysticism. Because of its great historic significance, however, Melanchthon's teaching should always be criticised with moderation. As a systematic solution it is certainly not satisfactory.

"With Luther the primary question was likewise not that of making holy but of being accounted holy. The communion with God that has been interrupted by guilt can only be again restored through the removal of guilt (Cf. the Heidelberg disputation of 1518). But besides Anselm and Occam, Luther was also influenced by Augustine and the Mystics who alike (under the influence of Eastern theology) emphatically placed the effective overcoming of the power of sin in the foreground. Besides the idea of the imputation of the righteousness of God we always find associated with it in Luther's ideas the belief in the commencement and continuation of a progressive renewal of life, but with the righteousness of faith ranking above the renewal. For in quite a unique way Luther understood how to distinguish in thought ideas that were for him a real unity; an evidence that he was not so careless in systematizing as men like to picture him. He wanted to distinguish between "external" righteousness and "inner" sanctification but without separating them from each other. His linking together of the two while at the same time maintaining their correct inner sequence will always remain the ideal solution to the problem. So, and only so, will justification be preserved from the danger of quietism and sanctification from the danger of perfectionism. If, on the other hand, the attempt is made to divide the remissio and the regeneratio into two separate acts, occurring at different times, each will waste away with mutual injury.

"A closer examination will further be able to distinguish three periods in Luther's development, each having a different emphasis in the treatment of the constituent parts of this relationship. There is a first period in which he so strongly emphasizes the effici alongside of the reputari that he interchanges them without any scruple and even speaks of a magis et magis justificari. Otto Ritschl (Dogmengeschichte des Protestantismus, II, 1, Chap. 28 seq.) includes the lectures on Romans in this period. Then, however, the emphasis begins to fall ever morre strongly on the Christus pro nobis, which, definitely given the pre-eminence, is combined with the Christus in nobis. Here (say in the commentary on Galatians of 1522-35) is the real climax of Luther's creative activity. In the later part of his life, as a result of his experiences, he approaches closer to the attitude of Melanchthon. The justitia aliena which we already find clearly indicated in the writings of 1520-1521 is more and more placed in contrast to renewal. It is certain, however, that Luther at all times, though with varying degrees of emphasis, held fast to the essential connection of justification and sanctification, while at the same time making clearly the theological difference between the two conceptions.

"What Luther so vigorously welded together was again split apart by Melanchthon as ha gained consideration for a purely imputative view of justification. While the wealth of meaning in dikaioun [justify as forensic aquital] was thus narrowed, through this one-sidedness, the free, pardoning operation of God's grace in behalf of the sinner was given powerful expression. In this way the central thought of the Reformation was not weakened but actually strengthened. Far more serious were the results on the other side, when the emphasis was laid on the effective aspect, when instead of the promise of God the moral change was made most important for the establishment and maintenance of the relationship with God. This was the case with Osiander. He too started with Luther's teaching but instead of stressing the forensic aspect, like Melanchthon, he turned to its effective, immanent aspects. He was strengthened in this position, as E. Hirsch clearly pointed out, through linguistic, philosophical Logos speculations of the Cabalistic and Neoplatonic sort, which he had acquired particularily from Reuchin and Pico della Mirandola. In so far as he made the external word of Scripture the vehicle of the inner justitia essentialis he remained a Lutheran, but when he opposed the teaching of imputation without rightly understanding it, and made the certainty of salvation depend on a progressive qualitas habitualis in animo he became a Thomist. So the certainty based on the forgiveness of sins became a merely subjective assurance that, because it required continual augmentation, was always insufficient. The effects became the cause; the extent of inner experience supplanted the assurance of a divine promise. Infusion took the place of forgiveness; the sanatio that of the imputatio and a quality of the soul supplanted a divine objectivity. Luther too had taught the activity of the one who was justified but for him that was too uncertain and variable a basis to permit faith to be grounded on it; the righteousness that enters into us is only a beginning and therefore only fragmentary. The righteousness, however, that is imputed coram deo is tota et perfecta. Osiander's ethical protest against the academic externalizing of justification was well meant but his view of the essential infusion of the divine nature of Christ alone, as the means of attaining righteousness before God, not only upset a correct christology (perfectus deus, perfectus homo, Athanasian Creed) but it also distorted the reformers' message of free grace into an ethical-rational sphere. A teaching so strongly reminiscent of the gratia infusa of Roman sacramental theology was no weapon for a Church that had just learned by hard conflicts to find vera et firma consolatio in the gratia extra nos posita. (Cf. Hirsch, p. 271 and the Formula of Concord, Sol. Decl. 623, 59 seq.)

"We can perhaps formulate it thus: for grace, Melanchthon says forgivenss; Luther says forgiveness and sanctification [see my post: "Hey! Let's Keep it Forensic in Here!" ]; Osiander, sanctification and forgiveness. The Roman Church for grace, says only sanctification. The use of the word to describe a purely divine act and a valid promise of grace is expressly forbidden. Si quis dixerit, sola fide impium justificare...anathema sit (Trid. sessio VI, can. 9). Justification becomes exclusively a process of justification (transmutatio), the gratia forensis becomes a gratia habitualis, that through sacramental power is poured into the will. If in Osiander's teaching the renovating power of grace that establishes salvation was still bound in its operation to the viva vox dei in His Word, here, under the influence of Greek theology and a conception of God as a substance, that had been drawn from ancient philosophy, the operation was conceived of as something naturally substantial and consequently magical (actio dei physica). The freely promising, personal working of God is here dissolved into an inner dynamic, an operative function. With such a conception of grace it is no longer possible to speak of a real assurance of salvation."

-Adolf Köberle, The Quest for Holiness, trans. John C. Mattes (Minneapolis, Minn: Augsburg Publishing House, 1938), 92-94 (Excursus).

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