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Chapter 19. Martin Luther. Questions to be addressed in this chapter. What was the controversy over indulgences? How did Luther understand the righteousness of God? What was the issue in Luther’s debate with Erasmus?

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Chapter 19

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chapter 19

Chapter 19

Martin Luther

questions to be addressed in this chapter
Questions to be addressed in this chapter
  • What was the controversy over indulgences?
  • How did Luther understand the righteousness of God?
  • What was the issue in Luther’s debate with Erasmus?
  • What is the foundation of Luther’s thought and of the Protestant Reformation?
  • The chief target of Luther’s 95 Theses.
  • Based on two concepts:
    • Doctrine of Purgatory
    • Treasury of Merits
  • Corruption of the practice by Pope Leo X, Archbishop Albrecht, and John Tetzel.
tetzel s sales pitch for indulgences
Tetzel’s sales pitch for indulgences

Don’t you hear the voice of your wailing dead parents and others who say, ‘Have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain. From this you could redeem us with a small alms and yet you do not want to do so. . . . We created you, fed you, cared for you, and left you our temporal goods. Why are you so cruel and harsh that you do not want to save us, though it only takes so little? You let us lie in flames so that we only slowly come to the promised glory.’ (p. 324)

the righteousness of god
The righteousness of God
  • Evolving understanding of justification.
  • Luther felt that God could accept only the righteous, but people could never become righteous through their own efforts.
  • Meditating on Romans 1, Luther comes to see that the righteousness of God is not what condemns sinners, but is imputed to them.
luther s understanding of the righteousness of god
Luther’s understanding of the righteousness of God

“Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours. Therefore the Apostle calls it ‘The righteousness of God’ in Rom 1. . . . This is an infinite righteousness, and one that swallows up all sins in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ. On the contrary, he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he.” (p. 328)

the role of the will
The role of the will
  • Dispute with Erasmus on free will.
  • Luther claims that as sinful, fallen creatures we are held captive to the will of Satan.
  • The law exposes our total and utter sinfulness and helplessness.
justification by grace through faith
Justification by grace through faith
  • The Gospel is that God will do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
  • Grace comes through faith, but even faith is the gift of God.
  • Why does that grace come to some people and not others?
  • Does faith ever change us internally, or only in the way God the Judge views us?
summary of main points
Summary of main points
  • Indulgences were a way of appropriating the excess good works of the saints as penance in exchange for good works or money, and the misuse of this practice was one of the major impetuses of the Reformation.
  • The righteousness of God does not condemn, but is that which saves when imputed to sinners.
  • Luther claimed against Erasmus that our human will is not free to choose any good thing apart from the grace of God.
  • Justification comes by grace from God through faith alone.