Tuesday Apr 23, 2019

Justification by Faith: The Best Thing in the Worst Words

Why is such a great thing trapped in such awful words? We discuss some of the problems with both “justification” and “faith” in contemporary English, then dig into the details of what this perplexing terminology actually refers to, and why Lutherans consider it “the article on which the church stands or falls.”


1. Scripture verses we discuss include Romans 3 and 4, II Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 2:20, 3:13, and 5:13.

2. J. Louis Martyn, Galatians (Anchor Bible Commentary)

3. Robert P. Eriksen, Theologians Under Hitler

4. Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich

5. Paul R. Hinlicky, Before Auschwitz: What Christian Theology Must Learn from the Rise of Nazism

6. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

7. N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology. For a discussion of this book, see Paul R. Hinlicky, Luther and the Beloved Community, pp. 245–248.

8. Some texts by Martin Luther on justification by faith: “The Freedom of a Christian,” “Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee,” “Preface to Romans

9. Philip Melanchthon, “Ausburg Confession IV” and “Apology to the Augsburg Confession IV

10. Paul Tillich: “Not faith but grace is the cause of justification, because God alone is the cause. Faith is the receiving act, and this act is itself a gift of grace. Therefore, one should dispense completely with the phrase ‘justification by faith’ and replace it by the formula ‘justification by grace through faith.’” Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 3:224. See also “You Are Accepted.”

11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about “speaking to life at its center” in both Christ the Center and Letters and Papers from Prison.

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