Martin Luther Justification

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MARTIN LUTHER AND JUSTIFICATION

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A Paper

Presented to

Dr. Dongsun Cho

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for SYSTH 3013 B

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by

Yu Park

April 21, 2009

Martin Luther and new perspective justification

Introduction

Justification means that God declares us righteous by his grace.[1] Historically, this issue was started when Martin Luther separated from the Roman Catholic Church.[2] Martin Luther's understanding of justification was one of the main dividing points in the record of Christian theology. In his production of the German New Testament in 1521 his translation of Romans 3:28 was, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.”[3] This interpretation and the emphasis on the word “alone” was to cause a conflict with Catholic doctrinal views on the issue and an essential rift in doctrine. The reaction to the doctrine of “faith alone” or Sola fide from the Catholic Church was in the extreme. “Great abuse was piled upon both Luther and his doctrine because of this single word, alone. He was accused of falsifying the Scriptures, of adding to the Bible, and of destroying the historic faith of the Catholic Church. For Rome and its authoritative magisterium this settled it—Martin Luther was a heretic! He plainly added to the dogma of Christ!”[4]

The different views on Justification

Roland Bainton in his writings Here I Stand, states that, “One might take the date June 25, 1530, the day when the Augsburg Confession was publicly read, as the death day of the Holy Roman Empire. From this day forward the two confessions stood over against each other, poised for conflict.”[5] There were to be following attempts at peace between the two views and a preliminary agreement was reached in 1541 on different articles of faith. However, at the Council of Trent in 1543 this was to change and this document is filled with various refutations or “anathemas” of the teaching of Luther and the pronouncements of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession was in effect a, “central document of the Lutheran reformation, which was a reaction against the Roman Catholic Church.”[6] It was initially written in German and Latin and presented at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530 by the princes of Saxony. The Confession was a call by The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to “…explain their religious convictions in order to resolve the question of reformation, and rally support against the Turkish invasion.”[7] The Council of Trent document, on the other hand, was the “… answer to the Protestant Reformation”[8] and it was also “…an answer, at least in part, to the desire for inner moral and spiritual renewal of the Church.”[9] The Doctrine of justification is an essential point of doctrinal discussion and argument and has been described as an area of separation between two Christian traditions which had”… basically defined themselves over and against each other largely on the basis of this doctrine."[10] Before a comparison of the two views on justification in the Augsburg Confession and the Council of Trent can be entered into it is vital to interpret the message and importance of justification by faith alone; and in particular the way that Luther saw justification and its relation to faith. In essence Martin Luther was concerned with a “quest for a God who was gracious, not simply a stern judge.”[11] This was further linked to the critique of indulgences and their link as a source of salvation. There was therefore a response to the idea of “Good Works” as a source of salvation. In other words, for Luther, as is evidenced in the Augsburg Confession, “…Justification has to do with saving righteousness in God's part. Such justification is received in and by faith. The emphasis on justification by...
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