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March 3, 2008 / vivator

Luther’s analogy of Justification

In one of his recorded Table Talks Luther used the following analogy to describe Justification (Source: Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther’s Works, Vol. 54 : Table Talk. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1999, c1967 (Luther’s Works 54), S. 54:III-241)

Martin Luther gave a very clear and apt explanation of the article of justification by showing its resemblance to the relation of a father and a son in this way: “A son is born an heir, is not made one, and inherits his father’s goods without any work or merit. Meanwhile, however, the father commands and exhorts his son to be diligent in doing this or that. He promises him a reward or a gift in order that in return for it he may obey more readily and freely: ‘If you’re good and listen, if you study diligently, I’ll buy you a nice coat. Come here to me and I’ll give you a beautiful apple.’ In this way the father helps his son in his weakness, although the inheritance belongs to him on other grounds. This is done for the sake of pedagogy.

“God also deals with us in this way. He coaxes us with promises of spiritual and physical things, although eternal life is given freely to those who believe in Christ as children of adoption, etc. So it ought to be taught in the church that God will repay good works, save in the article of justification which is the origin and source of all other promises. One should say, ‘Believe and you will be saved; do what you will, it won’t help you [to be saved].’ Accordingly we should remember that those promises and rewards are the pedagogy by which God, as a very gentle father, invites and entices us to do good, serve our neighbor,” etc.

Here Luther used father-son analogy to describe Justification instead of using forensic approach.  It is pretty close to what Catholic Justification is modeled after.   We can agree that we are born through our faith in Christ into God’s family.  Being His children God rewards us for our good works, which in Catholicism is considered as gift from Him – Luther considered those rewards to have only pedagogy (educating us to be good persons) in nature.  Luther did not mention that as father God also punishes us for our wrong doings: For the Lord disciplines whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives (Hebrews 12:6).  God will not disown us but we, in using our freedom, can decide to abandon our son-ship.  Even not doing what is right will make us lose our son-ship. Scripture says (1 John 3:10): By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

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One Comment

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  1. timglass / Mar 10 2008 9:28 am

    If one really studies the life of Luther, it’s fairly clear that he had issues with his own father, which led him into teaching this pedagogy.

    You have a very informative blog here. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and insight.

    The peace of Christ be with you,
    Tim

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