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

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Marty on Legalism

Here is a great quote from Martin E. Marty. I think it addresses some of my own concerns with the current approach in the LC-MS on ethics, specifically in the fields of the two kingdoms and the two kinds of righteousness. Civil righteousness and God's temporal rule through the law is so concrete, and God's temporal rule through the gospel is so undefinable (as much so as the Holy Spirit), that it seems there would be little question as to which we would pick. Especially in a congregational setting, God's rule through the gospel seems a mere abstraction, while simply putting forth and preaching dedication of service to one's neighbor seems to produce the desired results. The natural draw towards a puritanistic work ethic is very appealing not only to the pastor but also to the flesh.

"Legalism is so direct, so problem-solving, so efficient, and has so many accidental but easy ties with Scriptural moments that it seems attractive and agreeable to Lutheran ethics. "Freedom" then relates only to an inner, spiritual reality. "Ethics" is then based on a reintroduction of the Law on all outer, temporal activities. But if legalism is valid in certain areas of life, does it not crowd out freedom in such areas? In that case, is the Christian still not "under the Law" from which Christ on His cross freed him?"

-Martin E. Marty, “Luther on Ethics: Man Free and Slave,” In Accents in Luther’s Theology, ed. Heino O. Kadai, 199-229 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1967), 207.

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