09 August 2007

Dr. Luther on the Knowledge of God in Christ

I was struck by the following passage from Dr. Luther's Lectures on Galatians (CPH 1963), re: Gal. 4:8-9. It appears to shed some additional light on his comments concerning the First Commandment in the Large Catechism (the object of some controversy in recent years):

"Whoever falls from the doctrine of justification is ignorant of God and is an idolater. Therefore it is all the same whether he then returns to the Law or to the worship of idols; it is all the same whether he is called a monk or a Turk or a Jew or an Anabaptist. For once this doctrine is undermined, nothing more remains but sheer error, hypocrisy, wickedness, and idolatry, regardless of how great the sanctity that appears on the outside.

"The reason is this: God does not want to be known except through Christ; nor, according to John 1:18, can He be known any other way. Christ is the Offspring promised to Abraham; on Him God founded all His promises. Therefore Christ alone is the means, the life, and the mirror through which we see God and know His will.

"Through Christ God announces His favor and mercy to us. In Christ we see that God is not a wrathful taskmaster and judge but a gracious and kind Father, who blesses us, that is, who delivers us from the Law, sin, death, and every evil, and endows us with righteousness and eternal life through Christ. This is a sure knowledge of God and a true divine conviction, which does not deceive us but portrays God Himself in a specific form, apart from which there is no God."

We have heard St. Paul proclaim, this past week, that in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. That seems to be at the heart of Dr. Luther's comments here, and as he elsewhere sings: "For us fights the valiant One, whom God Himself elected. He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God; He holds the field forever."


Susan said...

I'm not sure which of the many controversies you're alluding to in the first paragraph.

But what I noticed in that quote was that the doctrine of justification IS the same thing as having a correct Christology. That really hits me because I've been told so many times in the last three years (by a variety of people) that my hang-up on the doctrine of justification is wrong, and that the chief article is Christology, not justification. Seems in this quote that the two are equated.

Unknown said...

I read this post yesterday, and through the day kept intending (but failed) to get back to the computer so that I could comment that this Luther quote sounds like a Susan the Theological quote of the day.

There you go, Susan. Justified in your hang-up!

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Interestingly, Sandra, I also thought of Susan when I posted this nice quote from Dr. Luther. Pretty good to have a reputation for loving the doctrine of justification. Good one, Susan!

I agree with you, Susan, that the doctrine of justification and Christology are of a piece with each other. Anyone who tries to separate them (beyond the sort of distinctions that systematics may make for the sake of precision) has failed to understand either. It's similar to what happens when people pit the office against the function of the Holy Ministry. In the case of Christ Jesus, all the more so, His Person and His Work are so intimately united as to be finally inseparable.

So I think that this is very much to Dr. Luther's point. It is only in Christ Jesus that we know God. Because He is the only true God. The Father is the only true God, and the Holy Spirit is the only true God, but there is only one true God, and we know Him only in the Person and Work of Christ Jesus. Not just "what" He is, nor simply "who" He is, but "how" He is toward us, and "why" He is so.

I'm surprised that you weren't aware of the controversy over Dr. Luther's comments on the First Commandment. They've been raging in the LCMS since 2001, after the Yankee Stadium debacle. The claim was made that Jews and Muslims, etc., also know and worship the true God, even though they do so only according to the Law, and not rightly (according to the Gospel). It seems to me that this quote from Luther on Gal. 4:8-9 has something to offer in response to that claim. Maybe others have previously cited his remarks in this context, but it was a new discovery for me.

Susan said...

>>I'm surprised that you weren't aware of the controversy over Dr. Luther's comments on the First Commandment. They've been raging in the LCMS since 2001, after the Yankee Stadium debacle.<<

I kinda suspected that that was probably the controversy you were referring to. But that controversy is just a humongous No-Brainer. (Or, it should be!)

But it's some of the "good guys" who have come up with the arguments that justification is NOT the chief article, and Christology is. So I wondered whether you were responding to this controversy or the "Muslims have the true god" controversy or something else.