I. The three “alones” of Reformation theology is Faith alone, Scripture alone, and Grace alone. Salvation is a gift given to humans by God’s grace, and through faith alone we receive this gift of salvation. If we erroneously believe that our own actions, such as going to church and obeying the Ten Commandments, play a role in achieving salvation, then salvation would no longer be a gift from God but rather a sort of human accomplishment. In order to be given the gift of salvation, we simply need to receive it rather than pursue it by our own actions. By faith alone, we are forgiven; there is no additional “requirement” of us to do something in order to earn this salvation. We know that God is favorable to us by trusting in the promises of God, which are dictated in Scripture. So, through faith we trust in Scripture, and in Scripture we see God’s promise of salvation to all that believe. Finally, through God’s grace alone we are forgiven and saved because God’s promise of salvation is made by grace. God’s grace is a gift; God did not save us because we are good, or create us because He had to. Rather, it is by God’s kindness to us that we are saved, regardless of our own actions. Thus, through faith, scripture, and grace alone we can know with certainty that God is gracious and faithful to us. The pinnacle issue of the 16th century was the question: how do I know that God is gracious to me? Greater emphasis was put on the two words “I” and “know”; what is the grounds of my absolute certitude that I know where I stand with God? At the time, the commonly accepted response was simply to do your best and hope that everything turns out okay. Luther, however, believed that humans are sinners who cannot do anything good on their own because they have no free will. He believes that by “doing our best” we are simply deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are doing our best because as egotistical humans, we tend to have a higher opinion of ourselves than we actually are. Therefore, we cannot “earn” salvation through our human actions. Luther’s three “alones” in Reformation theology are a response to this question of the 16th century. Traditionally, good works done by the individual have always been fundamental to Christianity. However, in the 16th century, such great emphasis was put on the individual and the individual’s actions that it seemed as if only good works guaranteed entrance into heaven. According to Luther, this is not true; it is not by human actions or works that salvation is obtained or earned. Rather, it is only God who can offer us salvation, and we must simply have faith in the promise of salvation as dictated in the Scripture by God’s grace. Through faith, scripture, and grace alone we know that God is favorable to us. It is necessary for God to save us because we cannot do it ourselves, since we do not know right from wrong. Our actions, such as good deeds, cannot justify our salvation. Instead, Christ is justified, so only through Christ we are justified. Consequently, Christians are simultaneously justified and sinners.
II. In The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin asserts that “we cannot with propriety say there is any knowledge of God where there is no religion or piety.” According to Calvin, there are two fundamental types of knowledge: the knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves. All of the “true and sound wisdom” that we possess is twofold, because we cannot have one without the other and we do not know which precedes the other. Essentially, we cannot know God without knowing ourselves, yet at the same time we cannot know ourselves without knowing God. Calvin, however, held a very negative view of human beings; he believed humans to be full of self-interest and self-deceit, never able to do anything purely agapē because there is always an aspect of self-interest to our actions. Therefore, as fallen sinners, our human reason is like the vision of a very near-sighted person. While not completely blind, the things we see are blurry and indistinct. So, human knowledge and reason is untrustworthy. It is only with God’s help, particularly through Scripture, that we can come to see things more clearly. The key to knowledge, according to Calvin, is Scripture. However, regardless, Calvin is convinced that humans are so deeply depraved that we cannot choose to do what is purely good on our own because there is always self-interest. Though we have choices, our will to choose is not free because by forming sinful habits we have freely given away our freedom to choose. Thus, for Calvin, God is always needed in order to do something good because God is power. Consequently, if we want to do good but are unable to, we need the power of God. We are always on a downward trajectory to nonbeing, and it is only with the power of God that we are able to rise back up. The power of God acts on us because our relation to the Holy is established through piety. According to Rudolph Otto, the Holy is something that “awes and draws,” inspiring wonder and inextricable attraction. Piety then, in Christian religion, is being awed and drawn to God. In Calvin’s words, piety is “that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires” (Bk I, Ch 2). Without piety, Calvin believes that we cannot realize the knowledge of God by ourselves because we need God in order to start a relationship with Him. Piety, therefore is the sense of being drawn to God by God, by recognizing ourselves as fallen sinners who have fallen in awe of God’s power. Only when we recognize that we “owe everything to God” and that “He is the author of [our] every good” are we truly pious. The goal of piety is to realize and take joy in the glory of God, to love God and to yearn to know more of God. Through our piety, God is glorified. True piety is not dependent on our own actions, but on God’s grace. Accordingly, true piety is not grounded in duty, but rather in our love for God. Only those who have recognized their sinfulness and are “awed and drawn” to God are true “knowers” of God. Just as we cannot freely choose to enter a relationship with God and instead need God to establish the relationship first, Calvin believes that we cannot know how predestination works. God has a grand plan and will for the universe, and we do not know what it is. God is sovereign, and He has “determined within himself what he willed to become of each man” (Bk III, Ch 21). Why some are given eternal life while others are set for eternal damnation we do not know; it is all God’s will and not ours. Thus, our only concern should be to glorify God and not idly distract ourselves on whether we are saved or not. Regardless of whether we are saved, we respond to God’s grace by glorifying God.
III. Pascal’s Pensées
A. In his arguments, Pascal attempts to illustrate the attractiveness of Christianity by describing the human condition as one of inconstancy, boredom, and anxiety when we are distant from God. In a situation without God, humans are caught in a state of uncertainty, with no stable foundation upon which a meaningful and joyous life can be founded. We are inconstant in that we find it difficult to commit ourselves to a certain issue, only partially devoting our time and thought. Since God is the ultimate ontological good that humanity seeks, without God we are left restless and dissatisfied. Thus, we quickly become bored with our present existence, forever seeking diversions and vain pleasures that might fill the void within us. However, we are ever restless and unhappy until God completes us. As a result, the more inconstancy and boredom we feel, the more anxious we get in trying to obtain some sort of satisfaction in life. B. In a state without God, man’s condition is one in which humans are constantly searching empty distractions in order to fill the void that can only be fulfilled by God because God is the ultimate good that humanity seeks. Because of this emptiness within us, we attempt to mask it with diversions in order to hide from the reality of the undesirable human condition. We, as humans, like to be diverted and distracted by something that will occupy our attention because other things would not be as attractive. The longstanding presence of death, wretchedness, and ignorance all illustrate the hopelessness of man’s condition. According to Pascal, humans respond to this hopelessness through diversion because if our conditions were ideal and happy, we would not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it. In order to conceal inconvenient truths, we use temporary distractions and pleasures to divert our attentions away. C. Pascal’s “wager” argument is not an argument for the existence of God, but rather a demonstration of how immensely important it is that we make a decision about what we believe about God. Pascal argues against agnostics rather than atheists, emphasizing how we must consider the religious question with maximal seriousness. After all, we are all given only one chip, our life, at a turning roulette table. Pascal outlines four possibilities at this “roulette table” of life. For two of the possibilities, there is no God, and therefore whether you believe or not simply does not matter. One other possibility is that God exists but you do not believe, in which case you lose everything. The last possibility is that God exists and you believe, in which case you have total gain. Therefore, according to Pascal’s argument, it is simply most wise and logical to act as if God exists and hope that it is true. Therefore, the intelligent person would always choose to live as a believer in God. Pascal’s objective is to help us realize why considering religion is crucial. Our destinies might be glorious, horrible, or even non-existent, but what is most important is our actions now. D. In Pensée 423, Pascal makes a distinction between heart and reason. The heart, or the core, of the human person has reason, which Reason does not know. A person must be seen as a whole, rather than separating heart from Reason. The whole person has reason for acting a particular way, even if Reason, or the logical part of us, cannot make sense of it. If a person’s actions are questioned from only one aspect of the person, then Reason may not be able to see that which is so obvious to the whole person. This is because the whole human person is not only made up of logic, but also experience, such as knowledge of others, friendships, concern, mutual respect, and understanding. Thus, while the logic of the abstract mind is good, there are other bases and grounds for making decisions and choosing profound actions that are not logical at all. This does not mean that these decisions are illogical or wrong, but rather that they go by a richer logic and that there is a response of the whole person that is just as true and dependable as the logical abstract mind, simply different. E. Esprit might be best translated as “sense,” “sensitivity,” or “energy.” There is the mathematical power of the mind, and then there is the power of finesse, of subtlety, the power of seeing connections that are not visible to the purely mathematical mind. The difference between the two kinds of mind is that the esprit de finesse can identify essential morals, values, and responsibilities that the esprit de géométrie cannot. The mathematical mind addresses clear-cut, tangible principles while the intuitive mind addresses the subtler, more intricate aspects of ordinary, everyday experiences that involve judgment. While both of these “energies” have tremendous power, it is wrong to entrust the meaning of life and decision-making in life to one or the other because that would give a restricted view of reality. Though different, both minds are involved in reasoning and have the same conclusive power, complementing each other such as in Pascal’s “wager argument.” Though the argument involves the normal mathematical logic, judgment by the intuitive mind is also essential in that Pascal frames this most momentous issue of our lives with the approach of a gambler at a roulette table. *
As sinners, we are slaves to sin and unrighteousness. As a result, Luther likens Christians as slaves to God, bound to God because of love. The distinction is not whether to do good or not, but rather why we do good, our motivation for doing good. We should not do good in order to earn Salvation, but rather we should do good because we trust and love God. If we desire to know of God’s promise of salvation, we must obtain it through Scripture alone. Scripture is infallible because it is directly by God rather than a product of human reason. Thus, we know with certainty that God is favorable to us through faith, scripture, and grace alone.
He was therefore skeptical of how we can say that we are doing our best when we do not even fully know ourselves, the “I” in the question. Pascal makes distinction b/w two ways mind are used
esprit de geometrie: geometric/ abstract logic/mathematical/ reasoning: way in which ppl ought to think, clear and distinct ideas other is esprit de finesse – subtle use of mind
if first only way, restricted view of reality
can you give clear and distinct demonstration you should marry one person and not other; involves all sorts of aspects of personality that cannot be measured, can’t treat like math formulas
For Pascal the human condition is one of "inconstancy, boredom, anxiety" (24:36). Man exists in "a state of corruption and sin"; fallen from his first state, he "has become like the beasts" (131:66). *
Pascal’s “pessismism” is really just an honest assesment of the emptiness and spiritual void within us that is masked by diverse mental constructs and diversions we constantly cultivate to hide from the reality of our condition. This condition, which is everyone’s condition(man’s condition) he calls “wretchedness.”
Without religion or piety, Calvin thinks people cannot know anything about God b/c need that initial inclination to know God in order to believe in him, need God to inaugurate your relationship. Need God to establish the relationship, can’t freely choose to do it. Piety is the sense of being drawn to God by God, by realizing ourselves as fallen sinners in awe of God’s power and sovereignty.
In The Institutes of the Christian Religion Calvin maintains that “we cannot with propriety say there is any knowledge of God where there is no religion or piety.” What does he mean by “piety,” and how does his position on predestination fit with the claim just quoted? Be specific in referring to the text.
* Two types of knowledge: god and ourselves
* Calvin: Negative view of human beings, fallen sinners; not blind but see things badly, self-inerested, self-deceiving; so, human knowledge and reason unreliable * Human reason is like…near sighted
* Key to knowledge is scripture; See more clearly with God’s help (scripture) * People are bad, depraved, cannot choose to do good on their own b/c no free will, can’t choose what’s purely good, there’s always self-interest. This is because, like Augustine’s view on freedom: by forming habits…(discussion) * Master metaphor for Calvin: God is power. (discussion)
* What bounds you to God, allow power of God to pull you back up? Religion and piety * “awes and draws” (discussion), orange definition
Augustine could not choose it because he had freely given away his freedom to choose. His will is divided. Though he can no longer will what he wants to will, God’s love acts first to save him, enabling him to will a moral life by restoring his freedom. Through moral conversion, Augustine comes to realize that only God’s love satisfies and nothing else. Chapter Two
1. Calvin defines what he means by the knowledge of God. He writes, "By the knowledge of God I understandthat by which we not only conceive that there is some God, but also apprehend what it is for our interest, and conducive to his glory, what, in short, it is befitting to know concerning him." It follows from this definition of the knowledge of God that "we cannot say that God is known where there is no religion or piety." (Calvin later defines piety as "that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires.") Because to know God is to know the benefits of God to human beings, or what is "befitting to know concerning him," only those who seek those benefits can truly be said to know God. Those who seek those benefits offered by God to human beings, or the true knowers of God, are the religious and the pious, those who recognize their sinfulness and look to God for grace. The knowledge of God is not simply the bare cognizance of the existence of God or a purely intellectualistic conception of God. It follows that only the believer truly knows God.
He rejected the idea that you had to earn your salvation. The alternative to earning salvation was grace. One way is "sola scriptura" which means that you know grace through scripture alone. Another way is "sola fides" which means faith alone. You know it through scripture alone, accept it through faith alone. Last way is "sola gratia" which means grace alone. You are saved by grace alone. Think about this in contrast to Catholicism (multi-faceted at the time), scripture alone vs. scripture tradition pope everything else. God's grace alone is what saves you. * This is all a response to the question: How do i know that I am saved? Emphasis is on the "I know" part of the question. Notice that it is a shift to the individual, not how do we know that we are saved? That is more of a medieval conception, if you are member of church, you are saved. How does an individual know?
16th century: Luther’s way of formulating the question, issue of 16th century, “how do I know that God is gracious to me?” How can I know that God as it were is on my side, favorable to me? Two words in the question: how do “I” and “know” that God is faithful to me. Towards me personally. What is the ground of my absolute certitude that I know where I stand with God. How can I know where I stand before God? Do your best. Luther: how know being honest with yourself? How do you know you believe
It is not us doing the believing, it’s god doing the believing through us. God makes the promise, God …the promise
Only those who are believers, truly trusting themselves in God’s hands, faith to God, only those people are saved. They’re not doing it, it’s the spirit doing it to them. If it’s all God’s doing, then those not saved are not saved b/c God chose not to act in them. God’s own good pleasure. Divine election, predestination. Through God’s own mysterious will. Luther actually never talks about predestination, but he takes the path. Calvin answers the question directly.
1. What are the three “alones” of Reformation theology? How do they relate to one another in Luther's theology? How does Luther’s use of them respond to the dominant question of the sixteenth century: How can I know that God is favorable to me?
2. Answer either A or B.
A. How does Luther deal with the role of “works” in the Christian life in A Treatise on Christian Liberty? How does he respond to those who think that the freedom of the Gospel means “that now all things are allowed them,” and what distinction does he make between “unyielding, stubborn ceremonialists” and “the simple-minded, ignorant men … who cannot yet grasp the liberty of faith”? Be specific in referring to the text.
B. In The Institutes of the Christian Religion Calvin maintains that “we cannot with propriety say there is any knowledge of God where there is no religion or piety.” What does he mean by “piety,” and how does his position on predestination fit with the claim just quoted? Be specific in referring to the text.
3. Explain the following fragments from the Pensées in relation to Pascal’s apologia for Christian belief:
A) “Man’s condition. Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety. (#24)
B) “Diversion. Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things.” (#133)
C) the “wager” argument (#418)
D) “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” (#423)
E) the difference between the mathematical mind (esprit de géométrie) and the intuitive mind (esprit de finesse) (#512)
Feel free to refer to any other pensées you wish in addition to these.