prot & cath parallels-text(1).doc

prot & cath parallels-text(1).doc - SELECT VOICES IN...

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SELECT VOICES IN PROTESTANTISM AND CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC PARALLELS SIXTEENTH-CENTURY REFORMER MARTIN LUTHER The greatest figure of the Protestant Reformation of the early sixteenth century was the German Martin Luther (1483-1546). Many factors lie in the background of the Reformation: the disruption and partial discrediting of the old society wrought by the decimating plague and 15/16th century “Western Schism” when there were two and even three claimants to be pope; the long-standing trend in Germany especially toward mystical or inward religion. But at the heart of the Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther; the Reformation would not have taken the shape it did without his towering personality. Luther entered a monastery as a young man, but rather than finding peace he was tormented by crushing anxiety as to whether he had done or could do enough to satisfy God's demands. That burden was lifted when, in studying the scriptures, he came to the words, “The just man shall live by faith,” and these words made him feel, he said, as though he had been born again and the gates of paradise were opened to him. What he realized is that it is not by what we do--or we could never do enough--that we are made right with God, but by the faith which God himself puts into our hearts, thanks to the saving work of Jesus Christ. This realization was the religious center of Luther's theology, which is expressed with customary vigor and clarity in the following passage from his commentary on Galatians; this selection is about the part of Galatians 2:16 that says A . . . a man is not justified [reckoned righteous] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. @ Luther alludes here to a favorite theme of his, that the Old Testament Law actually cannot be performed perfectly by human beings as they are, and so serves to show up our incapacity and sin apart from grace and faith. He also attacks medieval doctrines about congruity and condignity, which, as he understood them, suggested that there were prior acts which humans could perform to prompt or earn God's grace. LECTURES ON GALATIANS 1 Now the true meaning of Christianity is this: that a men first acknowledge, through the law, that he ia a sinner, for whom it is impossible to perform any good work. For the law says: A You are an evil tree. @ Therefore everything you think, speak, or do is opposed to God. Hence you cannot deserve grave by your works. But if you try to do so, you make the bad even worse; for since you are an evil tree, you cannot produce anything except evil fruits, that is, sins. A For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin @ (Rom. 14:23). Trying to merit grace by proceeding works, therefore, is trying to placate God with sins, which is nothing but heaping sins upon sins, making fun of God, and provoking His wrath. When a man is taught this way by the Law, he is frightened and humbled. Then he really sees the greatness of his sins and finds in himself not one spark of the
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