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THERENAISSANCEINTERLUDE209Martin LutherLuther had been deeply influenced philosophically by William of Ockham,whom he called "my beloved Master William." It was Ockham who had earlierrejected St. Thomas Aquinas' impressive system of natural theology based pri-marily upon the notion of causality. Natural reason, said Aquinas, leads us toGod by way of an analysis of the causal relations of all things, an analysis thatends by requiring a First Cause, which is God. Ockham had developed a strictlyempirical and, in a sense, skeptical view regarding knowledge. He argued that"from the fact that one thing is known to exist, it cannot be inferred that anotherthing exists." To say that some things are caused by other things gives one nowarrant to argue that God is the cause of the natural order. Ockham concludednot that we can know nothing about God but only that the unaided reasoncannot discover God. Knowledge of God is a gift of grace and is assured by anact of faith. Luther built on this foundation, finding impressive support for thisview in the writings of St. Augustine.>From St. Augustine Luther also drew his heavy emphasis upon the Paulineconception of sin, which located man's predicament not in ignorance orundeveloped reason but rather in the bondage of the will. It is therefore faith,not reason, that overcomes man's predicament. Moreover, said Luther, "it is thequality of faith that it wrings the neck of reason." What seems impossible toreason becomes feasible to faith. The difficulty with reason is that being thefaculty of finite man it tends to reduce everything to its own limitedperspective. This is especially true when the natural reason contemplates thenature and capacities of God. Here human reason tends to limit God to strictlyhuman estimates of what God is and can do. Luther was particularly struck bythe intellectual difficulties faced by Abraham when God promised that from hisbarren wife Sarah he would give him seed. "There is no doubt," said Luther,that "faith and reason mightily fell out in Abraham's heart about this matter, yetat last did faith get the better, and overcame and strangled reason, that all-cruelest and most fatal enemy of God." The element of faith reveals the limitedscope not only of reason but also of so-called good works.Luther's version of the Christian life had the effect therefore of challenging notonly the medieval system of scholastic theology but also those optimistic visions ofindividual and social perfection based upon man's good works. Luther said, "allmanner of works, even contemplation, meditation and all that the soul can do, availnothing." Only one thing is necessary for righteousness, liberty, and the Christian life,and "that one thing is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ." If someoneasks "what then is this word of God, and how shall it be used, since there are so manywords of God?" Luther answers, "the Apostle explains that in Romans 1:17 'The justshall live by faith.'... It is clear then that a Christian man has in his faith all that he