Thesis Thursday

Excerpts from Lecture 21:


A week ago we were told that faith is not a dead, inert affair, but something that transforms and renews the heart, regenerates a person, and brings the Holy Spirit into his soul. Tonight we shall be occupied chiefly with the second part of the tenth thesis, which states that the Word of God, the Law and the Gospel, is not rightly divided, but commingled, when the preacher describes faith in a manner as if it makes a person righteous and saves him for the reason that it produces in him love and a reformation of his mode of living.

Luther says that the Christian religion is, in a word, a religion of gratitude. All the good that Christians do is not done to merit something. We would not know what to take up for the purpose of acquiring merit. Everything has been given us: righteousness, our everlasting heritage, our salvation. All that remains for us to do is to thank God. And then there is this, that out of great kindness God proposes to give to those who are specially faithful in this life a peculiar glory in addition to their salvation. That is no paltry affair in the life to come. For God bestows extraordinary gifts when He gives those gifts of glory. There will be a great difference among Christians in the life to come. For even the least plus which one of the saints receives above that which his fellow-saints get in heaven is no trifle: Why? Because it is an ever-enduring gift. For that reason we must be truly grateful to God, after having received eternal life, for all that we are and possess. Only works proceeding from gratitude are genuinely good works. Even in our secular relations, when a person is very willing to render services to another because he hopes for a reward, we denounce him as a miserable cheat who pretended love to us while he speculated on financial gain and simulated disinterested service for pay. Such a person nauseates us: he figures on getting more from us than he does for us and becomes malicious and hostile to us when his hopes are frustrated.

The papists occasionally say that a person is justified and saved by faith, but they add: “provided love is added to faith.” They do not mean to say merely this, that the person who has no love has no faith. That is what we also teach, in accordance with Scripture. What they mean is this: A person may have the true faith, wrought in him by the Holy Spirit, but if love is not added to it, faith is absolutely worthless. That is why they call love the forma of faith. In theological terminology, you know, forma is that which makes a matter what it is (= essential quality). The papists declare that, if love is not added to faith, faith may be genuine, but it is not justifying faith, because love is the forma of faith, which makes justifying faith what the name indicates. Such faith they call fides formata, faith that has received the proper form. If love has not been added, they call that faith fides informis, faith without its proper form.

The Council of Trent, in its sixth session, adopted chap. VII, canon 28, which reads: “Faith, when love is not added to it, neither forms a vital union with Christ, nor does it make a person a living member of the body of Christ. Catechumens acquire the faith which confers eternal life, which faith without love cannot confer. For this reason they are told immediately the word of Christ: ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.’ ”

Let us remember that a host of people have been snared by the Jesuits. However let no one permit himself to be deceived. The Jesuits do not speak of faith as a source of love, but of a faith that has love existing alongside of it. Hence it is a lie when they say in any sense that a person is justified by faith. When they add the term formata to fides, they really mean works; for they say that a person is justified by faith if he has works in addition to faith. Their faith is worth no more than the imitation money used in a business college or the toy money of children, which looks like real money, but has no purchasing power.

The Roman doctrine of justification is nothing else than a complete denial, annihilation, and condemnation of the Gospel. Any sect is incomparably better than the Papacy, the Roman Church. The sects worry ever so much over their works of piety, their wrestling for grace, and their prayers, but they still hold fast the teaching that faith in the Lord Jesus alone justifies and saves a person. When a poor Methodist or Baptist is in his final agony, he realizes that faith alone saves, and he dies saved when he takes refuge in the Lord Christ. But the dying papist has to think of purgatory and how long he may have to be confined in it because he lacks charity and good works. He has to consider himself lost. That was the devil’s aim when he founded the Papacy — he wanted to destroy the redemption of Christ by the abominable doctrine that faith does not justify and save except when there is another element added to it which acquires salvation.

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This entry was posted in Christian life, Compare and Confess, Education, Gospel, Law/Gospel Distinction, Legalism, Liberty, Lutheranism, Protestant preaching, Protestant slogans, Protestantism/Catholicism, Quotes, Reformed Confessionalism, The Protestant Reformation, Thesis Thursday. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. RubeRad says:

    How do these sentences both fit in the same paragraph? “All the good that Christians do is not done to merit something.” and “God proposes to give to those who are specially faithful in this life a peculiar glory in addition to their salvation.” What if a Christian does good to merit a peculiar glory in addition to their salvation?

    Otherwise, it’s a relief to read Walther with his guns pointed forward at the enemy, rather than backwards, towards friendly forces: “Any sect is incomparably better than the Papacy, the Roman Church.”

  2. dr p says:

    @RubeRad: from my days in the LCMS I’m not sure whether that body considers any other to be friendly; rather it’s a matter of more or less in opposition to. When pointing out such inconsistencies and contradictions as you have, the usual bromide offered is that the Reformed are rationalists whilst Lutherans can live with paradox. When I think of a confessional Lutheran doing apologetics, the image of Nikita Kruschev at the UN comes to mind.

  3. RubeRad says:

    You are not wrong, the LCMS rhetoric seems pretty barbed. But as a Calvinist it’s hard to point a finger at them without noticing how many fingers point back at myself (ourselves) wrt criticality of Them What Don’t Get It. Although I do think Confessional Calvinists are friendlier to Confessional Lutherans than vice versa.

  4. dr p says:

    @RubeRad: what we Reformed “get” is Christian hospitality; ie an LCMSer may commune with us, but we could not commune at a confessional LCMS church. I have communed at churches which were more quatenus than quia in practice, but it’s a congregation-by-congregation thing. You are right though vis-a-vis our “cage-stagers.”

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