The Heart of the Reformation Faith

Ted Peters [1]

Faith, I believe, improves the quality of our daily life. To have faith in Jesus Christ makes us less anxious, less nervous, less defensive, more kind, more considerate, more loving.

How does faith accomplish this? The main contribution of faith, I believe, is that faith removes the need for self-justification. Deep down each of us feels a need to be justified, a need to feel that we are right, a need to believe that we are good and not evil.

How other people view us contributes to this. We want other people to view us as worthy of honor and respect. We want other people to recognize our station in life and to acknowledge our abilities and qualities.

In addition to how other people view us, how we view ourselves plays an even more decisive role. In our own internal consciousness, we want to view ourselves as worthy, as righteous, as good, as valuable. When our sense of worth is challenged, we defend ourselves. We tell ourselves that others may be wrong but we are definitely right. We justify ourselves.[2]

This is as unnecessary as it is tragic. “We in our self-assertiveness would much prefer to justify ourselves rather than receive God’s free gift,” writes Thomas Oden. “The message of justification is difficult to accept because it seems too good to be true. It says: Stop trying to justify yourself. You do not need to. There is no way to buy or deserve God’s love or acceptance. You are already being offered God’s love on the cross without having to jump hoops or pass tests.”[3] Our justification is a gift from God. This is the message of the gospel.

When we turn to Jesus Christ in faith—or better, when Jesus Christ turns toward us in faith—something happens inside us. We hear the message that it is God who justifies us. We do not justify ourselves. Rather, justification comes to us as a gift. Once we’ve received this gift, we no longer need to defend our selves as right or good or worthy. We give glory to God. We can then enjoy the fruits of the Spirit, as St. Paul lists them: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

By recognizing that God justifies us so that we do not have to do it, faith enhances the quality of our daily life. In our faith the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ present, and then the grace of God explodes in our lives with countless blessings.

This relationship—we humans as sinners and God as our justifier—is the most valuable insight to come out of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth century Europe. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin saw justification by faith to be the essential and indispensable Christian teaching. For Luther justification by faith is the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae, the article by which the church stands or falls.[4] For Calvin, it is the “main hinge on which religion turns.”[5]

Our question here is this: just how does faith justify? What is there about our faith in Jesus Christ that makes it justificatory? How is it that faith gives us comfort and assurance in our relationship to God so that we are liberated from the burden of justifying ourselves? Let us engage here in some exploratory surgery. Let us search for and find the heart of the Reformation understanding of faith.

In what follows we will examine three models of faith: faith as believing; faith as trusting; and faith as the real presence of Christ.[6] All three of these models are familiar to us in the Christian tradition. Yet, when we are looking for the heart of the faith that the Reformation has bequeathed to us, we need to ask: just how does faith justify?

Faith as believing

The first model is faith as believing. The Greek word for faith in the New Testament, pistis, is frequently translated, “belief.” The Latin word which we use to label our creeds, credo, means, “I believe.” According to this model, faith consists of personal assent to the truth of what the Bible or the church teaches. Based upon knowledge of the history of Jesus or the content of church doctrine, faith as belief affirms via confession the truth of what we know.

Ordinarily, we connect belief with an act of the mind, with giving assent to something we know as true. In the history of theology faith modeled as believing has been understood to be assent (assensus) to matters of knowledge (notitia). Belief depends upon prior knowledge. We hear the story of Jesus, and then we believe it. We listen to a sermon, then we believe in the gospel. We study Christian doctrine, then we believe what the church teaches. Faith is the “full, clear, and sure knowledge of God and hope in him,” writes Ulrich Zwingli.[7] “We hold faith to be a knowledge of God’s will toward us, perceived from his word,” writes John Calvin. [8]

Believing entails knowledge plus, in addition, assent. In his Enchiridion, St. Augustine discusses Romans 1:17, “the just shall live by faith.” Assent to Christian truth is essential, he says. “Without assent there can be no belief.”[9] What this indicates is that faith as believing consists of knowing what the church teaches combined with one’s own internal assent, with our voluntary agreement that “this is true.”

In the world market place of ideas, belief systems abound. Political beliefs compete with one another for allegiance. The comprehensive systems of Marxism and democratic capitalism battled against one another for most of the twentieth century. These battles occasionally involved tanks and guns and bombs; but, over the long hall, they were battles of persuasion. These were ideologies that seek to persuade people to think a certain way, to make converts and disciples and adherents.

Religious belief systems similarly compete with one another. The impersonal divinity of Hinduism differs from the personal God of ancient Israel. Confucian humanism differs from Western European humanism. Buddhist meditation differs from Christian prayer. Islamic theocracy differs from separation of church and state. Elements in these various belief systems are incompatible with their alternatives, forcing us to choose.

In the ancient Roman empire, those in power claimed that “Caesar is Lord.” The Christian conviction, in contrast, is that “Jesus is Lord.” To confess the latter was to deny the former. Serving two lords was not an option.

Today, religious pluralists in the name of world peace invite us to see past differences to what is common. All religions begin with a sense of the sacred, with acknowledging transcendence. Is this sufficient for giving priority to unity over division? Can we see our own faith system as one human perspective on the divine; and can we see other faith claims as equally admirable perspectives on the same divine reality? Can our assent to what we believe to be the truth of our own beliefs complement, rather than contradict, competing beliefs? Unfortunately, this is not working very well. Incompatibility seems to remain even after pluralists try to persuade us to see the various religions of the world as different roads up the same mountain, as non-competitive perspectives on the same divine reality.[10]

Faith as belief led down the opposite road during the Reformation. Rather than look for what is complementary, the Reformers looked for what is pure. Noting how their context was intra-Christian rather than inter-religious, the Reformers sought to distinguish what is essential from what is adiaphora, what is authoritative from what is mere opinion, what is divine from what is human perspective. For good or ill, the Reformers sought to isolate the minimal truth, the core, the essence, what is pure doctrine (reine Lehre).

Martin Luther provides the logic for devoting ourselves to purity in what we teach, especially when contrasted with impurities in our daily life. “The teaching is God’s Word and God’s truth itself, while life includes our actions also. Therefore the teaching must remain altogether pure. If someone falls short and is frail in life, then God can indeed have patience and forgive, but in the teaching itself, by which one is supposed to live, God can and will tolerate no changing or cancellation.”[11] The Reformers assume something that is difficult for us five centuries later to assume, namely, that something like pure teaching is available. We in the modern world tend to think that our teaching involves “our actions also,” so that what we teach inescapably includes our perspectives and cannot be pure. What we share with our Reformation predecessors, of course, is our faith in the power of God’s word to justify and save. This makes our devotion to purity of teaching equally zealous, even if we cannot attain complete purity.

What should we conclude, then, about our present context of religious pluralism? Here is what I suggest. First, we need to recognize, as pluralists do, that religious teaching is perspectival and partial; even our best theology is not pure as God’s word is pure. Second, this does not mean that all teachings regardless of religious our cultural tradition point to the same essential understanding of God. Many such teachings are incompatible with one another. Third, our responsibility as Reformation Christians is to teach a gospel of Jesus Christ that points to God’s act of salvation; and God’s saving action includes God’s justifying of sinners. Unless we teach this, we will miss the heart of the Reformation faith.

Be that as it may, for the centuries of tradition following the Reformation, faith has included assent to pure doctrine; and pure doctrine consists of human theology that is loyal and faithful to what God has revealed in Holy Scripture. John Calvin, for instance, holds that the Bible was inspired, even dictated by God, so that it becomes for us the very Word of God. Subsequent doctrines formulated by theologians of the church must limit themselves to expositions of what is found in the Bible—that is, no new doctrines should be invented that become obligatory to Christian belief. The Bible’s writers “were sure and genuine scribes of the Holy Spirit, and their writings are therefore to be considered oracles of God; but the sole office of others is to teach what is provided and sealed in the Holy Scriptures. We therefore teach that faithful ministers are now not permitted to coin any new doctrine, but that they are simply to cleave to that doctrine to which God has subjected all men without exception.”[12] What we see here is that our faith requires us to give assent to doctrine, and doctrine is defined as teachings we find in the Bible or interpreted from the Bible.

Such internal or subjective assent requires action on our part.; it requires an achievement on our part. Believing is a human action and achievement, to be sure. Yet, believing is not without its own measure of grace. The Holy Spirit witnesses from within the reader to understand what Scripture says; and the Holy Spirit makes the truths of Christian teaching live within the believer. About Calvin’s model of faith, Randall Zachman writes, “Faith in Christ is the knowledge of Jesus Christ as the image of the glory of God the Father, by the illumination of the Holy spirit; and faith engrafts us into Jesus Christ and makes us one with him and all his benefits, by the power of the Holy spirit. Faith is therefore based on the triune life of God.”[13]

We need to ask: does faith as belief justify? It might appear to justify, especially when intellectual assent takes the form of confession. In his passionate treatise, The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther asserts that “to preach Christ means to feed the soul, make it righteous, set it free, and save it, provided it believes the preaching. Faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of the Word of God, according to Rom. 10 [:9]: ‘If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’.”[14]

Belief in God’s Word marks the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness for Luther, as well as for Calvin.[15] “The root and source of sin is unbelief and turning away from God,” writes Luther; “just as, on the other hand, the source and root of righteousness is faith.”[16] In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther says, “Not to believe in Christ is to be unbelieving, ignorant, and estranged from God, who promised Christ the Savior…. The unbelief brings with it all the other sins, since it is the principal sin against the first commandment.”[17]

The model of faith as believing, in summary, begins with knowledge and ends with our assent to the truth of what we know. The knowledge required for faith is knowledge of the history of Jesus Christ as the Bible presents it, especially knowledge we gain when the message of the Bible is preached to us. We are aided in the assent process by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. The result is belief, taking the dramatic form of our personal confession.

Now, does this explain how justification works? No. If our believing justifies, then we would end up justifying ourselves. So, if justification is the result of God’s act of grace, if it is a gift, then faith cannot be a form of self-justification. Intellectual assent and even confession are important components to Christian faith, but in themselves they do not justify.

Faith as trusting

Faith adds the heart to the mind. Even though faith requires of our mind both historical knowledge of Jesus plus assent to the doctrines emerging out of the Bible, faith requires still more from us. It requires a conversion of the heart. The story of Jesus becomes our story. The teaching of the church becomes our own confession. What is historical becomes personal. “The word ‘faith’ is to be understood not as knowledge…but as trust that consoles and encourages terrified minds,” says the Augsburg Confession.[18] Citing Hebrews 11:1, Zwingli trumpets that faith “is the strength and assurance and certainty whereby the soul trusts inflexibly in the unseen God.”[19] In short, we turn our lives over to God in trust.

Luther expresses the movement from mind to heart in terms of the “for me,” pro me, application. Christ ought “to be preached to the end that faith in him may be established that he may not only be Christ, but be Christ for you and me, and that what is said of him and is denoted in his name may be effectual in us.”[20]

Moving from mind to heart is a challenge, as John Calvin describes. Our hearts are reluctant to trust in God. “If it is true that the mind’s real understanding is illumination by the Spirit of God, then in such confirmation of the heart his power is much more clearly manifested, to the extent that the heart’s distrust is greater than the mind’s blindness. It is harder for the heart to be furnished with assurance than for the mind to be endowed with thought.’[21] As you can see here, for Calvin the mind is moved to assent to pure doctrine by the inner work of the Holy Spirit, the witness within our soul to the truth of God’s Word in Scripture. In addition to enlightening our mind in this way, the Holy Spirit works within us to move the heart toward accepting God’s invitation to trust. This second operation is more difficult, presumes Calvin, because the heart is more resistant. The heart would prefer to trust itself rather than God.

The dynamics of trusting are central to Luther’s understanding of faith. Faith is a power in one’s life; and trust fuels faith. Faith “honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard since it considers him truthful and trustworthy.”[22] This applies to trust whether it is God or something other than God in whom we place our trust. In one of the most forceful expositions of the first commandment, Luther writes in his Large Catechism, “A ‘god’ is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.”[23]

Yet, when faith takes the form of trust (fiducia), it establishes within us an assuring and continuing confidence in the faithfulness of God. Because the person of faith trusts in God, he or she is open to the future.[24] Faith as trust is ready to accept new things without fear, ready to embrace God’s appointed destiny for us. Faith relieves anxiety, drops our defenses, and opens us to caring for the other in love.

In this way trust in turn expresses itself as obedience (obedientia), especially obedience to the law of love: love God and love neighbor. Faith as trust yields a daily life understood as a vocation given by God and characterized by works of love and service to others. The key move is from self-service to neighbor-service, to love of neighbor according to the needs of the neighbor.[25] “To love means to wish from the heart what is good for the other person, or to seek the other person’s advantage,”[26] says Luther. Philip Melanchthon adds, “faith pours itself out for each neighbor, it serves him, it offers itself to him to be used, and it considers his need its own. It does all things with all men in a candid, sincere manner, without self-seeking and malice.”[27]

Freedom from serving the self becomes freedom for loving someone else. Oswald Bayer says prayer marks the transition from self-orientation to neighbor-orientation. “Faith involves liberation from the drive for self-assurance and therefore from uncertainty. It means liberation from the search for identity and its attempted discovery. In prayer I am led away from myself. I am torn away from self and set outside the self with its abilities and judgments.”[28] Hans Schwarz would agree. “The Christian faith is a thoughtful faith,” he writes; “The Latin proverb ora et labora (pray and work) captures in a nutshell the essence of the Christian faith.”[29]

Justification and the Christian life belong together for eighteenth century Methodists as well as their sixteenth century predecessors. “Coming unto God is through faith, whereby we are justified before God,” writes John Wesley.[30] “True faith is manifestly shown by good living and not by words only.”[31] Calvin kept together “forgiveness and renewal, both God’s grace as mercy and God’s grace as power,” observes John Leith. “Whatever else the Reformed Christians may be, they are concerned about ethics, about the law, about morality.”[32]

Karl Barth believes he can perceive here a difference between Luther and Calvin. He believes Calvin, more than Luther, sees the broad scope of faith as inclusive of ethics. Whereas Luther’s emphasis on the justificatory role of faith obscures our responsibility to develop into persons who love, Calvin does. “Calvin, too, realizes that faith alone justifies us and that good works can spring only from faith, but…His concern is not just that faith should be pure and fixed on God alone, but…For him justice must also be done to the need to live out this faith before God and for God on the horizontal line.”[33] Barth wants through Calvin to build up a composite of all dimensions of human life lived coram deo, and this means that we as regenerated and sanctified persons of faith orient ourselves ethically.[34]

What Barth insufficiently appreciates, in my judgment, is the significant role played in Luther’s thought by the needs of the neighbor. It is the need of the neighbor, not the regnerated life of the person of faith, which dictates the structure of our loving. This makes Luther no less ethical; rather, it simply locates Luther’s ethic in neighbor love rather than regeneration or sanctification.

In the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, Roman Catholics and Lutherans together confess, “faith is active in love, and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works.” The Lutherans then proceed to identify their particular accent. “In the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone,’ a distinction but not a separation is made between justification itself and the renewal of one’s way of life that necessarily follows from justification and without which faith does not exist.”[35] Not forgotten here is the warning of James, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). Although justification can be distinguished, it cannot be separated from regeneration, sanctification, and works of love.

Randall Zachman anticipates the next model of faith, real presence, by offering a slightly different angle of interpretation on Calvin. “Calvin is concerned that faith should unite us with Jesus Christ himself. This is why Calvin’s discussion of faith in the Institutes precedes his discussion of both repentance and justification: unless faith engrafts us into Christ himself, we can become partakers neither of justification nor of sanctification.”[36] For those followers of Luther who want to emphasize that faith is what God creates within the human soul, such things as regeneration, sanctification, and works of love become fruits of faith. The order becomes important for Carl Braaten. “It is important to grasp the objective validity of the forgiveness of sins offered on the part of God prior to the human act of faith, and therefore also prior to repentance….The free and full forgiveness of sins is proclaimed as an objective gift of God, on account of Christ, to sinners, not because they repent and believe but in order that they may believe and repent.”[37]

Does faith as trusting justify? Is this the heart of the Reformation understanding of faith? No. Trusting and loving, like believing and confessing, are activities that could at best lead to self-justification. The heart of “justification by faith” is that it is a gift of God’s grace. There must be a dimension of faith that is not a human action. There must be a dimension of faith that is God’s gift.  That gift is the presence of Jesus Christ. To this we now turn.

Faith as the indwelling presence of Christ

“Christ is not outside us but dwells within us,” writes John Calvin.[38] This observation marks our turn to the third model for faith, faith understood as the mystical indwelling of Christ in the person of faith. Christ is actually present to faith. As we turn inward to ponder, pray, and plan, the Holy Spirit makes present the Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead.

One cannot overemphasize the priority of divine grace in the event of justification; the coming of Christ into one’s life is the event of justification which, in turn, constitutes faith. Carl Braaten reiterates this emphasis by contrasting the objective and subjective moments to faith. “Justification is objectively prior to faith. Faith is subjectively the result of the creative impact upon the sinner of God’s acceptance. Therefore, it may be said that faith justifies in the sense that it is becoming aware of that forgiving love by which it was first engendered.”[39] To get at the heart of the Reformation understanding of faith, we need to explore this objective moment the makes possible the subjective response of belief and trust.[40]

The models of faith as believing and as trusting indicate an activity, an activity resulting from human subjectivity. Faith in these two models entails subjective action on the part of the one who believes or who trusts. Here in this third model, faith as presence, we turn to the dimension of faith wherein God gives and we receive.

 “It is a state-of-being verb,” writes Gerhard Forde. Even though Forde does not here affirm a mystical notion of presence, he rightly emphasizes faith as a state of being tantamount to new creation. “Faith is the state of being grasped by the unconditional claim and promise of the God who calls into being that which is from that which is not.”[41]

A close look at Luther will show that it is the presence of Christ in faith that makes faith justificatory. Because Christ is just, and because Christ is present, then we become justified. Yet, more than logic is at stake here. Something mysterious if not mystical obtains. Faith “takes hold of Christ in such a way that Christ is the object of faith, or rather not the object but, so to speak, the One who is present in the faith itself….Therefore faith justifies because it takes hold of and possesses this treasure, the present Christ. But how He is present—this is beyond our thought.”[42]

The new school of Finnish research on Martin Luther’s theology emphasizes the role of real presence in faith for the Reformer. Tuomo Manermaa states this theme clearly. “According to Luther, Christ (in both his person and his work) is present in faith and is through this presence identical with the righteousness of faith….The idea of a divine life in Christ who is really present in faith lies at the very center of the theology of the Reformer.”[43] Scholars such as Brian A. Gerrish observe that, “for Luther, as for Calvin, faith culminates in the thought of union with Christ.”[44]

In answer to the question—how does faith justify?—many in the Reformation tradition contend that God “imputes” righteousness to sinners, righteousness that we sinners do not deserve. Called “forensic justification,” this model appeals to legal metaphors wherein we, who are guilty, are declared by God to be innocent. This imputation of righteousness is an act of divine grace, to be sure. Yet, the forensic concept of imputation does not provide a sufficiently complete explanation. It falls short of capturing the heart of Luther’s insight, an insight he shared with Calvin. For these Reformers, Jesus Christ is actually present within faith. We have no alternative than to describe this presence as, at least in some sense, mystical.

Wolfhart Pannenberg argues that faith as trust and faith as mystical presence belong together. “In Luther’s own doctrine, to be sure, justification by faith was based on a real—and in some sense ‘mystical’—participation of the believer in Christ extra nos, outside ourselves. Luther thought that this takes place by the very act of faith as trust, since in entrusting ourselves entirely to someone we literally ‘leave’ ourselves to that person. Our future, our life, is in the other’s hands and depends on the kind of person the other is.”[45] In this interpretation of Luther, Pannenberg describes trust as a human activity wherein we place ourselves in the hands of God who is outside us, extra nos. Yet, this is not quite the element of faith that makes it justificatory. The reason faith justifies is that Christ is inside us. Because Christ is just, and because Christ is inside us, then we are just.

Pannenberg rightly sees the need to go beyond the bare notion of imputation, to carry us into real presence. “But if forensic justification is separated from the basic intuition of ‘mystical’ participation in Christ by faith, then a peculiar actualism (or extrinsicism) results: We must accept the promise of divine forgiveness again and again, because we slide back into sin again and again.” To benefit from the confidence and assurance that justifying faith can offer us, we need to rely on the “more profound mystical roots of Luther’s thought.”[46]

Key to understanding how faith justifies is to see that it is not the faith itself that justifies. Rather, it is Christ who is present in faith. Alister McGrath stresses that justification is due to the presence of Christ coincident with faith. “It is important to appreciate that Luther insists that the distinguishing mark of faith is the real and redeeming presence of Christ. Faith is fides apprehensiva, a faith which grasps Christ and makes him present…. Furthermore, by insisting that faith is given to man in justification, Luther avoids any suggestion that man is justified on account of his faith: justification is propter Christum, and not propter fidem.”[47] It is not the faith per se that justifies; rather, it is the Christ who is present in faith that justifies.

But, we may ask further, just how is it that Christ’s presence justifies? The answer comes with the socalled “happy exchange.” It is the presence of Christ in the human soul that makes possible the substitutionary event, the exchange of unrighteousness for righteousness. The qualities of Christ become the qualities of the person of faith; we become just because we borrow—or better, are given—the attributes of Christ. Luther uses the metaphor of the perfect marriage to illustrate this point. Faith “unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh [Eph. 5:31-32]…. It follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil….Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s.”[48]

The very presence of Christ within faith means, among other things, that the love in our life is Christ’s own love. And, as Christ is God’s gift to us, so also is our love a gift of ourselves to our neighbor. “A Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise, he is not a Christian,” writes Luther; “he lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love.”[49] This Christ-filled love is described by Luther as “freedom.” Paul Chung puts it this way: “Christian freedom, which comes from the justification of the sinner, insulates human beings from the curse of sin, from being turned toward the self (incurvatus in se)….The Christian is free to live in response to the gift bestowed.”[50] We are wedded to Christ in faith; and we are wedded to our neighbor in Christ’s love.[51]

Conclusion

Drawing a conclusion not unlike ours here, Oswald Bayer says of Luther: “The passive righteousness of faith takes place when justifying thinking (metaphysics) and justifying doing (morality), together with the unity of both that some seek, are all radically destroyed. In other words, both metaphysics and morality with their claim to justify our being are brought to nothing by the work of God. God slays, but he does so only to make alive.”[52] To make alive, God places within us the resurrected, vindicated, and living Christ.

We have been engaged in exploratory surgery, searching for the heart of the Reformation understanding of faith. We have been looking for that dimension of faith that makes God’s justification of us possible, that makes us righteous before God as an act of God’s grace rather than a human act of self-justification. We have looked at three models of faith: faith as believing, faith as trusting, and faith as the presence of Christ.

All three belong to our one faith, to be sure; yet it is the third, the presence of Christ within the person of faith, that we can connect with God’s justification of us. Christ’s presence is a gift of God’s grace. So is justification. So is salvation. The first thing a person of faith wants to say is, “thank you.”

[1] Ted Peters is Professor of Systematic Theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, U.S.A. He teaches in the doctoral studies program of the Graduate Theological Union and serves as research scholar for the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. He is editor-in-chief of Dialog, A Journal of Theology and co-editor of Theology and Science. He is author of GOD—the World’s Future: Systematic Theology for a New Era (Minneapolis MN/USA: Fortress, 2nd ed., 2000) and Science, Theology, and Ethics (Aldershot UK: Ashgate, 2003). He is editor of Science and Theology: The New Consonance (Seoul, Korea: Shin Wan Agency, 2002).

[2] For a description of the dynamics of self-justification see Ted Peters, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1994) chapter 6 and Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2003) 1-3; 22.

[3] Thomas C. Oden, The Justification Reader (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002) 53.

[4] In the Smalcald Articles, Martin Luther writes, “Nothing in this article can be conceded or given up, even if heaven and earth or whatever is transitory passed away.” The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000) 301.

[5] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill, Library of Christian Classics XX, XXI (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1960) 3.11.2; 1:726.

[6] These three models of faith appear in Ted Peters, GOD—The World’s Future (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2nd edition, 2000) 69-71.

[7] Ulrich Zwingli, On Providence, cited by Susan E. Schreiner, “Faith,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand, 4 Volumes (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) 2:92.

[8] Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.7; 1:549.

[9] Augustine, Enchiridion, XX.

[10] See: Paul F. Knitter, No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes toward the World Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985) and Carl E. Braaten, No Other Gospel! Christianity among the World’s Religions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992).

[11] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vols. 1-30, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing Company, 1955-1067); Vols. 31-55, edited by Helmut T. Lehmann (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1955-1986) 34:77.

[12] Calvin, Institutes, 4.8.9; 2:1157.

[13] Randall C. Zachman, The Assurance of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993) 177.

[14] Luther, LW, 31:346.

[15] Although assurance and confidence are fruits of faith, faith may still carry with it doubt and even fear. “Whereas in the earlier Luther the fear of death was the ultimate form of unbelief, the Luther who discovered justification by faith understood that no matter how great our faith, it cannot be strong enough to stave off terror before death.” Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1999) 205. “For Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, faith transformed the believer’s perception of the divine will, thereby granting subjective certainty of salvation….But no final or absolute certainty of salvation was granted to the viator before death.” Schreiner, “Faith,” 2:91.

[16] Luther, LW, 1:162.

[17] Ibid., 34:154.

[18] Book of Concord, 57.

[19] Ulrich Zwingli, An Exposition of the Faith, in Zwingli and Bullinger, edited by G.W. Bromiley, Library of Christian Classics XXIV (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1953) 246.

[20] Luther, LW, 31:357.

[21] Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.37; 1:584. Despite this, William J. Bouwsma contends that there was “a tendency in Calvin to understand faith less as trust in God’s promises than as intellectual assent to a body of propositions.” John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) 99.

[22] Luther, LW, 31:350.

[23] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, in The Book of Concord,386.

[24] Faith, writes Paul Althaus, “expects something from God where nothing can be seen; it waits expectantly against all appearance. God’s deity and man’s faith correspond. Faith is completely directed to God as God; one can only completely believe and trust in him who is essentially God.” The Theology of Martin Luther (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1966) 127.

[25] One might interpret neighbor-love as something that happens in the person of faith prior to regeneration; or one might interpret such love as a fruit of regeneration. Lutherans tend toward the former; Reformed toward the latter. Because Calvin places regeneration prior to justification in his Institutes, it may appear that regeneration justifies. This does not follow. “In fact it is not by regeneration at all, but by the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, that God justifies men.” Francois Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought (New York: Harper, 1950) 256. Yet, “Christ justifies no one whom he does not sanctify at the same time.” Ibid. However, justification is complete, while sanctification is progressive and yet to be accomplished. “Sanctification can be no more than begun during this life, where, whatever progress the faithful may make, they remain sinners to their deaths. Justification, on the contrary, is perfect from its first reception.” Ibid., 257.

[26] Luther, LW, 27: 391.

[27] Philip Melanchthon, Loci Communes Theologici, in Melanchthon and Bucer, edited by Wilhelm Pauck,  Library of Christian Classics, XIX (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1969) 109.

[28] Bayer, Living by Faith, 26.

[29] Hans Schwarz, Responsible Faith (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1986) 13.

[30] John Wesley, edited by Albert C. Outler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964) 129.

[31] Ibid., 131.

[32] John H. Leith, Introduction to the Reformed Tradition (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1978) 79-80.

[33] Karl Barth, The Theology of John Calvin (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1995) 77.

[34] Ethics and the Christian life are important wherever the Calvinist legacy appears. Heup Young Kim observes that Korea is the most Christianized and most Confucianized country in Asia. Dialogue between these two great traditions is warranted, he argues. With this in mind he compares Christian Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) with Confucian scholar Yi T’oegye (1501-1570) on the religious task of recovery of our true humanity. “In a nutshell, sanctification is the realization of Christ (the perfect image of God) through hearing the Word (theology) and self-cultivation is the embodiment of T’ien-ming through investigating li (confuciology). If Christ (the Word) is identified with the principle (li), the structure of humanization in Calvin’s theology and T’oegye’s confuciology will be basically same: both of them point to sage learning.” Christ and the Tao (Hong Kong: Christian Conference of Asia, 2003) 103, author’s italics.

[35] Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2000) 19.

[36] Zachman, Assurance, 176.

[37] Carl E. Braaten, Justification: The Article by Which the Church Stands or Falls (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990) 24, author’s italics.

[38] Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.24; 1:570.

[39] Braaten, Justification, 26. “The verdict of justification is valid prior to the works of the regenerate heart and in spite of every human failure. Any qualification of this priority and this paradox leads to synergistic heresy and the legalization of the gospel.” Carl E. Braaten, Principles of Lutheran Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983) 109, author’s italics.

[40] “This ‘alien faith’ separates Luther not only from Zwingli and his followers but also from his own heirs. Modern Protestantism sees faith as individual fulfillment, and the idea of an ‘alien faith’ outside the individual is foreign to it.” Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New York: Doubleday, 1982) 242.

[41] Gerhard Forde, Justification by Faith—A Matter of Death and Life (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1982) 22.

[42] Luther, LW, 26:129-130.

[43] Tuomo Mannermaa, “Why is Luther So Fascinating? Modern Finnish Luther Research,” in Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1998) 2.

[44] BA Gerrish, The Old Protestantism and the New: Essays on the Reformation Heritage (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1982) 80.

[45] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Christian Spirituality (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1983) 21-21.

[46] Ibid., 21. “The imputation of God’s righteousness is in fact unavailing without the indwelling of Christ,” writes Bengt R. Hoffman, Luther and the Mystics (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1976) 14. “Justifying faith joins us so closely to Christ that there is no possibility of thinking about the imputation or appropriation of the work of salvation as any kind of process in the individual person….For this reason, faith cannot be thought of as any kind of human work, knowledge, decision, or agreement to accept God’s offer of salvation. Faith itself is rather to be understood solely as God’s work in people.” Friedrich Mildenberger, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983) 38.

[47] Alister E. McGrath, Justitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification From 1500 to the Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) 14, author’s italics.

[48] Luther, LW, 31:351.

[49] Luther, LW, 31:371.

[50] Paul S. Chung, Martin Luther and Buddhism (Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002) 101.

[51] “The love which is Christian faith in action must be part of the divine love given to human beings by God in order that they may pass it on to their neighbors. For Luther, the love which is faith active towards the neighbor was a gift of God.” George W. Forell, Martin Luther: Theologian of the Church, in Word and World Supplement Series 2 (St. Paul MN: Luther Seminary, 1994) 27.

[52] Bayer, Living by Faith, 21. See: Oswald Bayer, Martin Luthers Theologie (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 2003) 39-40.