What Luther Rejected

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Martin, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. Martin

    Martin
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    I have just started reading, "Martin Luther: Selections from his Writings" by John Dillenberger. What he has done is collected some of Luther's various writings (etc). Of the longer writings (ex: The Bondage of the Will) he has selected portions. Btw, The Bondage of the Will is a great book (I have the book and love it) as is most of Luther's writings. Luther's preface to the New Testament, to Romans, and others are rich in Biblical insight. I, personally, have a great fondness for his preface to the Epistle of Romans. I does a nearly perfect job of summerizing the book and its powerful theology.

    However Luther had some failures in his life/ministry. One could name several including, but not limited to, his later anti-Jewish statements, his failure to support a seperation of church and state, his view of communion (etc). However this post is not about history but theology. Luther's biggest failure, in my humble judgment, was his rejection of the Epistles of James and Jude.

    Of James Luther writes:

    "In comparison with these, the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical...I think highly of the Epistle of James, and regard it as valuable although it was rejected in early days...I do not hold it to be of apostolic authorship for the following reasons: Firstly, because, in direct opposition to St Paul and all the rest of the Bible, it ascribes justification to works, and declares that Abraham was justified by works when he offered up his son...Secondly because, in the whole length of its teaching, not once does it give Christians any instruction or reminder of the passion, resurrection, or spirit of Christ...In sum, he wishes to guard against those who depended on faith without going on to works, but he had neither the spirit nor the thought nor the eloquence equal to the task. He does violence to Scripture, and so contradicts Paul and all Scripture...I therefore refuse him a place among the writers of the true canon of my Bible."

    Of Jude Luther wrote:

    "No one can deny that this epistle is an excerpt from, or copy of, the second epistle of St Peter...hence, although I value the book, yet it is not essential to reckon it among the canonical books that lay the foundation of faith"

    Clearly I have serious problems with Luther's rejection of James and Jude.

    First I think his understanding of James's view of faith and works is wrong. In fact I would go so far as to say that Luther agreed with James, even saying simular things to James in his preface to Romans. Personally I don't think Luther gave James "a fair shake".

    Secondly Jude is very simular to 2Peter. However that does not mean that it is merely a copy that can be rejected. Jude, and 2Peter, is an important challange to Christians to defend the faith.

    Luther did alot...but he also had some very serious failures. I can't think of any figure, large or small, that the same can't be said for. Despite his failures I love to read his writings and biographies about him.

    In Christ,
    Martin.
     
  2. APuritanMindset

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    I think we Baptist say without words the same thing Luther does about James, though a lot of times. We hold SOO tightly to Ephesians where Paul says,

    For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift-- not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB)

    and yet we never tell people what to do afterwards. We may say we think Luther was off base, but a lot of us have a hard time actually living that out and proclaiming it from the pulpits.
     
  3. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    At times so much of our actions looks that way.
     
  4. IfbReformer

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    Martin Luther was as human as us, and he was definitely a product of his times. Martin Luther was stepping out into a somewhat scary area, rexamining everything from the Catholic Church, even the Canon.

    While he may have reached some faulty conclusions in some areas, I do admire his zeal for the truth.

    As far as James goes, I can see his frustration with James when compared to Pauline Epistles. But if you allow the Pauline epistles to interpret James, it is not the problem Luther thought it was.

    Most people don't realize, James epistle was written some years before Paul's epistles, Paul wrote his epistles with Jame's epistle fully in mind, and I believe to clear up some misunderstandings of James epistle. Because standing on its own, it may seem to promote a works based salvation.

    But when with Paul's clearification, we can see James was speaking that faith produces works, not that it is based on works. And James did not get into how many works, or what the pattern one's life would be, but he tackles the issue of "no works" - or no change.

    IFBReformer
    http://www.ifbreformation.org
     
  5. Robert Ross

    Robert Ross
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    IFBREFORMER:
    Thank you for your post. I have never seen this explained in such a way which makes very good sense to me. I checked out your site too. AWESOME.

    Bob Ross
    http://www.reformedifb.com
     
  6. Humblesmith

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    I fully agree. While we can certainly disagree with anyone if we're based in the scriptures, we should be careful to not judge other people from other eras in the light of our day. Luther had tremendous stresses & pressures.

    I love the little book of Jude. It speaks of "earnestly contending" for the faith, yet is so poetic that it qualifies as good literature. If you haven't read it lately, do so.
     
  7. TexasSky

    TexasSky
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    Out of curiosity - given certain conversations that have been on this board in the past - why do people assume that if there is a disagreement in scriptures, Paul is correct and the others are wrong?

    I love the teachings of Paul, but it REALLY alarms me that many people seem to set Paul above all the others.
     
  8. Kiffen

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    I never knew there were disagreements in Scripture! I never knew Paul's teachings are in contradition to other Bible authors. :confused: :eek: :rolleyes: Except in the mind of Liberal theologians who deny the Holy Spirit's authorship.

    Actually the Teachings of Paul, the Teachings of John, the Teachings of Peter, the Teachings of James, the Teachings of Moses etc.... are not their own Teachings but that of the Holy Spirit.

    It is not surprising Paul is quoted more because it was God who used him to write nearly half of the New Testament and formulate Christian theology. In the Old Testament one will quote Moses more since it was Moses that God used to write the Old Testament Law.
     
  9. StefanM

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    Most people primarily use the Pauline epistles for the topic of justification because Paul spends more time on the issue than any other writer. His points are more thoroughly explained on this topic because he devoted more words to it. Not that James is wrong, but that Paul's many words help to illuminate James' few words on the topic.
     
  10. IveyLeaguer

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    Outstanding explanation. I agree and especially note the part about change. It makes sense that James was writing of the change characterized and manifested by works, deeds, and other actions of the changed individual.

    To me it flows along with the theme of scripture such as 'born again', new creature, forsaking all, Romans 7-8 and much more.

    For instance, the love for the Word of God that is demonstrated by a new Christian would be an example of 'works' brought about by 'change', would it not?
     
  11. USN2Pulpit

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    Please don't derail this topic...your question has been discussed at length, I believe, in another thread.
     
  12. mioque

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    "Most people don't realize, James epistle was written some years before Paul's epistles, Paul wrote his epistles with Jame's epistle fully in mind"
    "
    ofcourse (as usual) the other half of the experts claim that it is the other way around.
    As in.
    Paul's epistles were written some years before James epistle, James wrote his epistle with Paul's epistles fully in mind.
     
  13. superdave

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    Paul's position can clearly be seen as the primary source of Church truth in the NT, but his ministry and that of his contemporaries was very much based on the teachings of the original Apostles, he was not "more correct" than any other writer. I would view Luther's comments as very similar to many discussions on this board, many times we are imbalanced in our approach to scripture, since it is difficult to keep many different passages in mind while studying, and we seem to focus on one particular comment or paragraph which may have been focused on a specific point or incident and attempt to make overarching docrine from it. Hence the need for Systematic theology. You also have to take into account the different writing styles and the translation issue. These books were written in a primary language, and even those reading them in greek are reading a slightly different dialect than those they were written in. Language, especially greek can be very specific, where English in many points is not. The supposed contradictions in the scriptures are many times simply a factor of the language, and our inability to look at the whole of scripture at once in our finite congnitive abilities.

    James' point as mentioned above points much more clearly to our progressive sanctification, and to the fact that if it is not occurring, we have every reason to doubt our faith! Not that works are required, but that they will follow true faith. Abraham's actions demonstrated his Faith (Romans 11) and were imputed to his account as righteousness. We gain the same advantage by trusting in Jesus atonement by faith, and that should cause our lives to be characterized by certain actions, otherwise, it is likely that our faith is dead, which I believe is what James' point was, not that the Faith was inadequate in itself.

    Awesome discussion.
     
  14. yeshua4me2

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    awesome discussion and thank you guy for the info.

    i think that the "natural" thing that happens after salvation is to start good works. after all faith not proved by works is worthless. this is the dividing line bteween the true converts and the false converts. when i got saved i had a desire to tell people and to obey God, and if this weren't the case (i just returned to my normal life instead) then there would be ample case to question my salvation. isn't that what James is saying?
     

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