Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Luther's doctrines of Justification by Faith Alone and the Lord's Supper

The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by C.P. Krauth contains a lengthy critique of Dr. Shedd's History of Christian Doctrine. Krauth points out a number of errors in Shedd's work but one of the sections I found most interesting was Krauth's response to Shedd's accusation that there are certain "Romanizing elements" in the Lutheran Confessions. This is a common accusation. People will often simply say that Luther just didn't go far enough. Here is a small portion of Krauth's response:

It was not the power of education, not the influence of Romanistic leaven, but the might of the Word of God, interpreted in regard to the Lord's Supper by the very laws by which Luther was controlled in reaching the doctrine of justification by faith, and every other cardinal doctrine, it was this, and this only, which fixed his conviction. After the lapse of centuries, whose thoughts in this sphere we have striven to weigh, whether for, or against, the doctrine of our Church, with everything in the character of our times and of our land unfavorable to a community in the faith of our fathers, after a conscientious, prayerful examination of the whole ground, we confess, and if need were, through shame and suffering, God helping us, would continue to confess, our profound conviction that this doctrine which Dr. Shedd considers a relic of Romanism is Scriptural to its core, and that no process can dislodge it, which will not, carried logically through, bring the whole temple of Evangelical truth to the ground. No man can defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and assail the Lutheran doctrine of the Eucharist on the same principles of interpretation.same principles of interpretation.
Nevertheless, he who is persuaded that the Romish doctrine of Transubstantiation is unscriptural, is not thereby in the remotest degree logically arrayed against the Scriptural character of the doctrine of our Church. They are not, in such sense, of one kind as to warrant this species of suspicion. They are the results of greatly different modes of interpreting Scripture, Romanism and Zwinglianism, being of one kind in this, that they depart from the letter of God's Word, interpreted by just rules of language. The Lutheran and Romish views differ most vitally in their internal character and position, the one taking its harmonious place in Evangelical doctrine, the other marring its grace and moral consistency; Romanism and Zwinglianism being of one kind in this, that both, in different ways, exhibit dogmatic superficiality and inconsequence. The Lutheran and Romish views are differently related to the doctrinal history of the Church, the one having its witnesses in the earliest and purest ages, the other being unknown to the ancient Church and generated in its decline; Romanism and Zwinglianism here being of one kind, in that both are unhistorical. The Lutheran and Romish views differ in their devotional and practical working; Romanism and Zwinglianism here being of one kind, in that both generate the common result of a feeble faith--the one, indeed, by reaction, the other by development. Nothing could be more remote from a just representation of the fact than the charge that, in any undesirable sense, the Romish and Lutheran views of the Lord's Supper are one in kind.
Luther took the position that he did on the doctrine of the Lord's Supper for the same reason he took the position he did on justification by faith alone. We must cling to Christ and His Words and not make our reason a higher authority than the Scriptures. Luther took a bold stand on both doctrines but the Scriptures clearly teach both. When Paul says we are justified by faith apart from works, Paul means we are justified by faith apart from works. When Jesus says the bread is His body and the wine is His blood, He means that the bread is His body and the wine is His blood.

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