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date: 29 May 2017

Martin Luther on Faith

Summary and Keywords

Faith is not a human act but rather (a) an act of God—that is, the power or action of God as a “divine work in us”; and (b) relation before God (coram Deo), or more precisely, a passive relation and responsorial action (vita passiva). Furthermore, the genesis of faith and its execution should be systematically conceived as (c) communication (unio, communio et communicatio cum Christo) in the event of justification; or (d) the encounter of a pure gift by the power of the Holy Spirit in the word event; (e) ensuing the exchange of gifts or the response of the vita passiva.

Keywords: Martin Luther, faith, certainty, experience, German Mysticism, fides ex auditu, communicatio idiomatum, vita passiva

The Hermeneutic Context and Method

G. Ebeling said, “In one sense, Luther’s understanding of faith is the key to his theology.”1 How one defines the concept of faith in Luther’s theology is also significant for one’s own tradition, perspective, and methodology.2 “Faith” for Luther is an ever-present theme so that all of his writing can be explicitly or implicitly analyzed with respect to his concept of faith. Faith need not be expressly mentioned because the concept of faith is latently or manifestly a permanent theme in any translation, exegesis, and interpretation. Therefore, considering only the terminological surface would be a conceptual narrowing (a concept cannot be reduced to a term). Luther’s concept of faith is a theme in all of his thinking and he discusses it in diverse forms or modes: exegetically, systematically, anecdotally or metaphorically, and narratively. As H. Gollwitzer remarks, “Luther most often describes what faith is … by demonstrating how faith speaks.”3 Faith does indeed empower one “to speak … in new tongues” (loqui … novis linguis),4 which one sees in Luther’s proclamation, confession, and prayer, as well as the figures and tropes in his theology.5 Accordingly, the nature of the language of faith and about faith is of extreme importance for how it is to be understood. As in the parables of Jesus, not only the conceptual content is important, but also the linguistic form.

The multidimensionality and ubiquity of the theme extending to the rhetoric and performance of religious speech and theology raise problems of methodology. Exegesis of Luther or the history of terminology falls short when addressing this complexity. Classical language analysis also falls short if it primarily begins with propositional content. Above all, a significantly expanded language analysis must be undertaken that is informed rhetorically, hermeneutically, and by performance theory and is attuned to the finer differences in articulation of faith. Accordingly, exemplary basic figures of faith serve in the following presentation as recurring motifs: incisiveness, metaphor, paradox, and hyperbole. We need new perspectives on Luther.

Historical Background

There are three main contexts of tradition relevant for the historical background of Luther’s understanding of faith (beyond Paul and Augustine): Thomism,6 Nominalism, and (often overlooked)7 German Mysticism8 (especially Tauler and Suso).9

Thomas of Aquinas represents the classical concept of faith (between opinion and knowledge) in the context of logos as an “act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God.”10 Faith is an act of reason that assists the will to affirm its truth (assensus) despite incomplete knowledge.11 The fundamental and decisive aspect is the person’s epistemological and voluntative power that is supported and redeemed by prevenient grace. With that, we leave the Franciscan tradition of a Bonaventura with affective certainty of belief (at the level of pathos) in favor of the model of intellectual affirmation of articles of faith (which borders on propositional language analysis).

At the level of ethos, Scotus conceives of faith not as a theoretical but a practical act, which is why theology is seen as a practical discipline (as with Luther). Its goal is not primarily recognition of truth but rather works.12 As fides acquisita ex auditu (“faith acquired through hearing”), the passivity of hearing becomes the central medium for the genesis of faith (cf. Luther’s fides ex auditu)—though, the dominance of one’s own practice (of works) remains.

In the German Mysticism of Tauler and Suso (against the background of Meister Eckart), faith is understood at the level of pathos as Gotterleiden [suffering of God] (“gotliden”) and is affirmatively received by Luther. This basic figure is used to exemplify the affective passive genesis of faith metaphorically and make it narratively explicit. Neoplatonic tradition since Dionysios Areopagita (De divinis nominibus) has held that the divine is to be suffered.13 Therefore the pathos of passivity (with the emotions and passions) with respect to God becomes a basic figure for understanding the relationship to God and for unfolding a life form of cognitio Dei experimentalis (“experiential knowledge of God”). The legendary Vita (life) of Henry Suso has become paradigmatic for this.

However, the conceptual problem remains that Mysticism is determined by the model of correlative passivity (of immanent relations), which becomes hyperbolically paradoxical when taken to the extreme. Refraining from any action, right up the aporetic refrain from refraining,14 becomes the self-minimization of the sinful subject (cf. the humilitas of the young Luther), ultimately, in order to let God act and to let God be God—which remains in all refraining only sublimated action.15 Luther, however, comes to understand the relationship to God as passivity that cuts across all correlations (whereby immanent correlative passivity with respect to God is distinguished from pure passivity). To understand the genesis of Luther’s concept of faith, one must diachronically differentiate the following: (a) early Luther (with his piety of humilitas),16 above all in the early Operationes in Psalmos;17 (b) the transition to the so-called reformatory discovery of God’s justifying righteousness; (c) the clarified and edited Reformation theology as found in the Heidelberg Disputation and in the major writings of the Reformation; as well as, (d) the late Luther during the second Reformation as a thinker of the (new) order of the Church. In the following, the systematic presentation will be limited to the classical concept.18


In order to determine Luther’s concept of faith, its antonyms are significant for external distinction (definitio per negatio, “definition through negation”): (a) The central antithesis is faith versus sin, which is defined as unbelief.19 Accordingly, neither faith nor sin is conceived of morally or in the logic of action.20 (b) For Luther, ignorance or error is not an antithesis to faith. This shows that faith is not thought to be “correct cognition”—although the biblical tradition of cognitio Dei (et hominis) (“knowledge of God [and man]”) still holds for Luther. (c) Superstition (i.e., true vs. false belief) derived from faith is the antithesis of sin and unbelief.21 “That upon which you set your heart” can be many things: the transgression against the first commandment is the usual case that remains a permanent problem even for a believer due to simul iustus et peccator (righteous and sinner at the same time) and calls for the need to discriminate. (d) The antithesis to faith can also be works, whereby it is clear that faith is not a work (at least not a work of man). In that usage, “work” is a metonymy for logic of action, self-justification, and the logic of the law. This then leads to antitheses, for example (faith as) the work of God rather than the work of man.22 (e) The broader perspective in which faith and sin are distinguished is the main difference between Gospel and law or the eschatological difference between new and old. That is how the new man is distinguished from the old. This is a strictly theological distinction that cannot be represented by anthropological differences such as inner versus outer man or soul versus flesh. One problem with this is the obvious erroneous inclination to interpret the antonymic relationships as parallel and above all to identify the negatively charged relata (related terms), for example, as though the inner man was the new man. Instead, the anthropological and the theological distinctions should be crossed or interrelated (hence, both the old and the new in the inner as well as with the outer, resulting in a quadruple).

Basically, sin as unbelief is the negatively determined initial situation of man, in contrast to which God creates faith. Due to this negative “conditio humana,” faith can neither be understood as arising from the residual powers of humans nor as an extension of them. That would merely be an extension of the old (taken in the strict eschatological sense), which by its nature never can bring forth nor contribute to the new. The sharp eschatological difference between old and new is in fact Luther’s theological distinction seen in the duality of sin versus faith (which was already mentioned in the simultaneous existential and dialectical crossing.) In this regard, Ebeling mentioned a “fundamental shift in human understanding”23 with respect to Scholasticism that implies a thorough radicalization of how sin and faith are understood.24

One problem that remains is Luther’s tendency to think in dualities: in terms of God (absconditus vs. revelatus), of media (Law vs. Gospel), of mankind (Old vs. New), of reality (church vs. world; two kingdoms), etc. The systematic task of Luther exegesis, therefore, is to distinguish the meaningful from unnecessary or polemical exaggeration; dualities should also be deemphasized when interpreting Luther to avoid polemical exaggerations in ecumenical and interreligious contexts. However, it is important not to gloss over distinctions Luther clearly made and noted (such as in the exclusive articles or in mere passive).

Setting: Where Faith Is Found

The Anthropological Setting

Faith is “seated” in the heart,25 in man both body and soul, that is, not primarily in the rational capacity (Logos) or in the will (Ethos), but in the pathic integration of the whole human being in his personal unity of body and soul. “A true theology is practical, and its foundation is Christ, whose death we can grasp in faith” (“Vera theologia est practica, et fundamentum eius est Christus, cuius mors fide apprehenditur.”).26 Thus, faith is a form of perception, more precisely, a pathic perception of the encounter of the Word of God in Christ resulting in a practical perception. It is by this practical perception and within the horizon of the perceived, which the perceiver becomes another, new one. At the basis for this is a soteriological version of the communicatio idiomatum (“communication of properties”): “For this and all of God’s words are holy, true, just, peaceful, free and full of goodness; therefore whosoever relies on Him with proper faith, his soul will be joined with Him so completely that all virtue of the word will become part of his soul and through faith his soul full of God’s word—holy, righteous, true, peaceful, free, and full of goodness—and he will become a genuine child of God’s.”27 From this, Johannes Fischer surmised, “Understanding thereby takes on soteriological meaning”28 (analogous to Bultmann, where faith is basically understood as understanding, as true self-understanding). Under the conditions of a scholarly differentiation of understanding, his conclusion with regard to faith is no longer tenable, just as it does not follow from the quotation. However, Fischer’s conclusion does apply to Luther’s concept of faith that intrinsically involves not only the question about understanding (fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding), but also a kind of understanding itself (which has to be clarified on its own), without being conceptualized “intellectuallistically,” that is, within the dimension of the Logos. The externa claritas as well as the main medium of the word address an understanding recipientwho also understands what encounters him and to what he responds. If, however, faith were to be interpreted as understanding or understanding to become soteriologically significant, then the genesis of faith would be dependent on the “hermeneutical competence” of the person.

The Social Setting

Faith arises and lives in the social relationship of the church or congregation. For “the Word” and its perception does not come in the form of private reading, but rather in the form of the “viva vox” of public kerygma, which is perceived within the social context of the congregation in service. Hence, in both its genesis and life form, faith is institutionally embedded, hence, critical of the institution (as with Luther) and formative for it (as seen in the “second Reformation”). For Luther, the diachronous and synchronous ecumenical horizon with which he sought contact by referring to Paul and early church symbols is constitutive of the setting of faith. Hence, it would be mistaken to restrict the church to a local congregation, the state church, or one’s particular denomination.

The Ontological Setting

The ontological model in which faith is determined is decisive for the language, the disjunctions, and the oppositions. Luther does not follow the Aristotelian ontology of substance or materia-forma model. Just how his ontology is constituted remains a subject of controversy for research and requires systematic interpretation. It is clear that he favored relation over substance.29 In this a relation of passivity toward God is constitutive for the genesis and life of faith: coram Deo iustificante (“to be made righteous before God”). The medial practices of this relational ontology are personal;30 communicative; and, above all, events of speech and word.31 Therefore, rhetoric and performance are relevant to the effective presence of God in faith (so that one can consider Luther a proponent of a performative turn in theology).

Measures of Performance: Precision and Paradox

Gotlich werck ynn vns (“Divine Work in Us”)

It is fundamental to Luther’s understanding of faith that it is not grounded primarily naturally; anthropologically; or rationally, that is, in continuity with man’s creaturely potencies, but is conceived to be the work of God. It is neither naturally “infusa” nor “acquisita” through virtue, rather, “Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1[:1213]. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers;‎ and it brings with it the Holy Spirit.”32 Hence, faith is not the work of man but the work of God in us. This presupposes a personal God who acts on and in us (or, equivalent to that, the power of God working in us).33 “It is up to God alone to give faith contrary to nature and ability to believe contrary to reason. That I love God is the work of God alone.” (“Solius Dei est, dare fidem contra naturam, contra rationem et credere. Est opus solius Dei, quod diligo Deum.”)34

It must be hermeneutically conceded that the metaphor “divine work” and the believer’s experience of God and themselves must be theologically interpreted. At the same time, faith is understood not only as an experience and interpretation of the self, but due to this abductive interpretation (as God’s work), the whence of faith (God), its how (passive genesis), and its certainty and truth (solo Deo) are articulated. The result is that faith indeed lives only in and subject to interpretation but whence and from what it lives and arises is previously given, comes or happens, or is accorded to one. All of these patterns of interpretation point to a passive genesis of faith extra nos that not only pertains initially or liminally but permanently as the basis of perseverance. The consequence for the faithful is, “that we let God alone work in us and that in all our powers do we do nothing of our own.”35 It becomes apparent that Luther (here yet) makes use of the passivity metaphor of “letting,” familiar from German Mysticism—however “to let someone act” is, grammatically, clearly a transitive statement.

“True faith in God comes exclusively from God. How this manifests in humans is hardly unequivocal,” according to Ebeling.36 Contrary to the (supposedly metaphysical) metaphor of faith as divine work (and hence as revelatory work of God), faith has been interpreted as experience, especially in the subsequent reception and applications of Luther’s theology. The reasons for this may lie in the Enlightenment and the critique of metaphysics, which makes the language of “divine work” appear “pre-critical.” In this view, faith should be understood but as the performance of religious subjectivity (and community). One could elaborate historically and theologically the effects of Schleiermacher and Pietism. Regarding “faith in Luther,” here is only relevant that the experiential interpretation of faith (1). can also be found in Luther; (2). that therefore no alternative to the interpretation as divine work by Luther should be construed; (3). that at the same time, the interpretation of the “whence of faith” as divine work remains irreducible to faith as the experiential (self)interpretation of religious subjectivity. Systematically formulated, interpreting faith as experience instead of revelation is to operate within alternatives (i.e., Schleiermacher vs. Barth) that apply neither to Luther nor are they systematically necessary or desirable. For whenever faith is conceived of as experience, it must be experience of God (divine work) to be faith; and whenever faith is taken as revelation (divine work), it must be experience of revelation.

Joest showed for Luther “that precisely the ‘answer’ of faith, that is, just that in which [for Luther] the proper existential act of life [Grundlebensakt] of man as a person occurs, appears completely to be the encounter of divine action”37—and that “life in faith can mean both a personal answer of the human self and passivitas in the work of God. The inner foundation sought consists in relationship of these two elements with one another.”38 This relationship can be more clearly seen as a perspectival combination of faith as divine work and as experience if, going with and beyond Luther, faith is understood as encounter and response.39 The divine work is the twofold encounter of the killing of the Old and the resurrection of the New Man in God’s justifying action—whereupon faith as affirmation and a form of life unfolds the response. This can aptly be called responsorial passivitas,40 which is lived in the vita passiva. Ebeling’s formulation, “Faith in Christ is nothing other than a ‘yes’ to God’s acceptance of man,”41 appears to be a one-sided reduction and would reduce faith to its responsorial aspect.42

Promissio and fides ex auditu

The systematic difference between revelation and experience recapitulates and varies the difference between God’s work and man’s work. By interpreting faith as God’s work in us, its juxtaposition against man’s work (virtus, habitus) raises the question about the How: How does God work in us? Luther’s answer to this is in the work of the word: He works “solo verbo promissionis” (“through the word of promise alone”).43 That is, God’s work and man’s work are mediated in the work of the word (which could be further developed as work of media, so that also work of images, embodiments, sociability, and institutionality come into view, as they did in the “Second Reformation”).

“He has given us no other chain with which we are to climb up, no other wagon upon which to go to heaven, than the word.”44 Basically, “these two belong together, faith and God.”45 In that regard, Ebeling said, “Word and faith stand in an intimate and necessary relationship to each other.”46 “If you want to obtain grace, then see to it that you hear the Word of God attentively or meditate on it diligently. The Word, I say, and only the Word, is the vehicle of God’s grace” (“Si vis gratiam consequi, id age, ut verbum dei vel audias intente vel recorderis diligenter: verbum, inquam, et solum verbum est vehiculum gratiae dei.”)47 Hence, (in the context of the “crisis of the scriptural principle” of sola scriptura), solo verbo entered later with Barth and Jüngel.48 Just how precisely is their relationship to be understood, and what does “word” mean here? Logos (asarkos, ensarkos?), Christus incarnatus, vox Christi, scripture, sacrament as verbum visibile, the viva vox of the kerygma? The ambiguity of the word begs for clarification and invites highly heterogeneous theological interpretations of Luther’s theology of the word.49 Essentially, Luther’s critique of substance metaphysics made a restructuring of his ontology necessary. Relation replaces the materia-forma model, a relation of passivity, and concretely, a relation of language, which metonymously condenses (and shifts) in the word event. Truth and power are ascribed to the word as the guiding medium of divine work (“göttlich Werk”). Significantly, the promissio or verba testamenti effect what they proclaim.50 Therefore, the word of God is sacramentum not only exemplum: it induces faith, which is not defined as fides infusa51 but in the tradition of fides acquisita ex auditu. However, departing from this tradition, faith for Luther is not acquisita, nor based on a capacity or capability, but is fides ex auditu.52

Hearing as the main medium in the genesis of faith is a metonymy of the passive kind of givenness of the external word (verbum externum): “We are constituted outside of ourselves” (“constituamur in alienis.”).53 This word event is to be formally specified as an event ab extra: in its externality it is public and socially embedded, always institutionally informed (the ministry of public preaching), and it is a bodily word—meaning inclusively “word and sacrament.” Therefore, it also is directed at body and soul, constituting sensual meaning: “that the Gospel is not what is written in books but is a bodily sermon that should sound and be heard throughout the world and be so freely proclaimed to all creatures that they might hear it if they but have ears, i.e., be preached so publically that it could not be done more so.”54 Hence, what word means (in light of the 18th and 19th centuries), is not scripture and reading by the solitary reader, but “usus verbi” are kerygma and service. “Faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of the Word of God” (“Fides enim sola est salutaris et efficax usus verbi”).55 Scripture and its public use in the viva vox of the proclamation mark a soteriologically decisive externality of the Whence and Whereby of faith.

Froelich wechßel und streytt (“The joyful exchange and struggle”)

The genesis of faith is laid out in the locus classicus of Luther’s theology, in De libertate christiana. Hence, the core of this doctrine of faith will be hermeneutically and systematically reconstructed here: Luther distinguishes three benefits of faith (gratiae fidei—which cannot mean effects of faith in the sense of a human action but effects of grace by dint of God’s acting in faith on the faithful):

  1. 1. The first benefit of faith is the unio56 of the anima with the promissa dei, the verba sancta.57 This union of soul and word of promise is construed to be both tactile and gustatory (absorbeatur, saturetur, inebrietur), as “tactus Christi” (cf. Christ as medicus), whereby the soul is healed by virtue of “this absorbing of the Word, communicates to the soul of all things that belong to the Word” (“absorptio verbi omnia quae verbi sunt animae communicat”).58 The properties of the word are transferred to the soul and are communicated to it. This is carried further in the mystical metaphor inspired by Tauler and Suso of the soul as a fiery iron that glows when joined with the fire: “Just as the heated iron glows like fire because of the union of fire with it, so the Word imparts its qualities to the soul” (“quale est verbum talis ab eo fit anima, ceu ferrum ignitum canet sicut ignis propter unionem sui et ignis”).59 Therefore faith is “conformity with the word.”60

The unio as communicatio idiomatum of the word with the soul is not reciprocal (nothing comes from the soul to the word or returns to it) but one-sided grace, healing, effective promise, and liberation of the soul—with which the first main thesis of De libertate is explicated: that faith (as a work and working of God by virtue of the word) liberates (the free Lord of all things). Thus Luther closes with, “This is that Christian liberty, our faith” (“haec est Christiana illa libertas, fides nostra”).61 Obviously, this is not a logical but a rhetorical conclusion that does not prove but rather makes plausible and interprets. Moreover, it is clear how an interpretive pattern from Christology is authoritatively and constitutively invoked—in, with, and under mystical metaphors: the unitio and unio personalis Christi (“personal union with Christ”) and the communicatio idiomatum.62 Soteriology becomes interpreted through Christology, using the unity of the person of Christ as the “constitutive theory” of faith: in the unio of word and soul, which forms the person, occurs the word’s (here) one-sided gift (not exchange) of properties to the soul. The result is the passive genesis of faith as Christian freedom: negatively as freedom from the law, positively as freedom to love and responsibility.

  1. 2. The second benefit of faith (here called “virtus,” not in the ancient sense but as vis and virtus Dei, which is effective in faith)63 makes Christian freedom explicit in the activity of faith that unfolds in response to its passive genesis. Faith is “function” (“officium”),64 to give God honor. That is the “very highest worship of God” (“summus cultus dei”): “we ascribe to him truthfulness, righteousness, and whatever else should be ascribed to one who is trusted” (“dedisse ei veritatem, iustitiam ed quicquid tribui debet ei, cui creditur”).65 Under the condition that the pure gift of faith as freedom opens a reciprocally asymmetric communication between faith and God, “Faith works truth and righteousness by giving God what belongs to him. Therefore God in turn glorifies our righteousness” (“Fides enim facit veritatem et iustitiam, reddens deo suum, ideo rursus reddit deus iustitiae nostrae cloriam”).66 Here, we must speak of a two-way commercium or gift exchange, yet one-sidedly founded; its conditions of possibility and actuality remain initially and permanently grounded in the pure gift.67

  2. 3. The third benefit of faith (“Tertia fidei gratia”68) explicates essentially the basis for the first and second benefits (i.e., virtus [Dei]), by deepening the unio of soul and Christ, metaphorically interpreting the invisible saving event of justification. It is as bold as it is incisive and appropriate for Luther to interpret within the medium of living metaphor. That which cannot be given to “fulfilled intuition,” would not be accessible otherwise. The alternatives of metaphysical assertions or systematic interpretation (exegetical, for instance—or since Kant, of a transcendental deduction from the structure of subjectivity) would undermine the task of a theologia practica to interpret the “lived faith” in undelegable responsibility, just for the sake of linguistic accessibility of the otherwise inaccessible.

A disconcerting mystical metaphor introduces the interpretation of the “joyous exchange (and struggle!)”: (a) “ … that it unites [copulat cum = copulates with] the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom” (“Quod animam copulat cum Christo, sicut sponsam cum sponso”);69 hence, not first the wedding70 and communion of goods of Christ and the soul, but the copulation.71 This drastic and concise metaphor is the figure with which (b) the unio of soul and Christ is interpreted as “one flesh” (“una caro”).72 This shows that (c) “there is between them a true marriage” (“verumque inter eos matrimonium”),73 much more perfect than any interhuman marriage because it does not unite two soteriologically “old” humans, but the old with Christ, so that the old becomes anew (mere passive). According to this metaphorical foundation, Luther rhetorically concludes (from endoxon or reputable belief) with (d) the community of goods of Christ and the soul, “everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil” (“omnia eorum communia fierei tam bona quam mala”).74 The communio proceeds from the unio so that, by dint of a communicatio idiomatum, all properties of the soul transfer to Christ and vice versa. Not only are properties exchanged, one becomes a new person, as will be made explicit in the metaphor fides facit personam (see below).75 In this way, faith becomes participation in the life of Christ.

In the context of metaphoric interpretation, Luther draws on the Christological theories of the unitio and unio personalis Christi to incorporate the communicatio idiomatum as the basic figure of the joyful exchange.76 Thus, the “hard” Christological rationale for the doctrine of justification—as the theory of the constitution of Christian freedom in the passive genesis of faith—is the doctrine of the unity of the person of Christ that is applied to the personal unity of Christ and the soul (as a theoretical metaphor), which makes it possible to explicate the communication of properties within this personal unity. Systematically, a need for precision arises regarding which genera of communicatio idiomatum Luther utilizes for the genesis of faith. The genus maiestaticum appears to apply in the unio of Christ and the soul as the properties of Christ (justice, etc.) are taken on by man. The opposite also applies in that the properties of the old man (sin, etc.) are accorded to and taken on by Christ. This means that Luther systematically claims the genus tapeinoticon (which was first formulated as such in the 19th century).77

This is demonstrated by the basic Christological doctrine at the center of De libertate: “Christ is God and man in one person. He has neither sinned nor died and is not condemned and he cannot sin, die, or be condemned;‎ his righteousness, life, and salvation are unconquerable, eternal, omnipotent. By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are his bride’s. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned;‎ he suffered, died, and descended into hell that he might overcome them all. Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by him in a mighty duel” (“Cum enim Christus sit deus et homo eaque persona, quae nec peccavit nec moritur nec damnatur, sed nec peccare, mori, damnari potest, Eiusque iustitia, vita, salus insuperabilis, aeterna, omnipotens est, Cum, inquam, talis persona peccata, mortem, infernum sponsae et propter annulum fidei sibi communia, immo propria facit et in iis non aliter se habet quam si sua essent ipseque peccasset, laborans, moriens et ad infernum descendens, ut omnia superaret, peccatumque, mors et infernus eum absorbere non possent, necessario in ipso absorpta sunt stupendo duello”).78

  1. 4. This joyful exchange, articulating the gain of this unio and communicatio, namely, the gain of Christian freedom and reconciled personality coram Deo, has an often unrecognized other side: war and duel. The “most pleasing vision” (“dulcissimum spectaculum“)79 is “a happy exchange and struggle” (“froelich wechßel und streytt”).80 It is clearer in Latin when Luther speaks—metaphorically in contrast to copulation, union, and marriage—of “a blessed struggle” (“salutare bellum”)81 and “mighty duel” (“stupendum duellum”).82 The uniting event of the genesis of faith is polemic, not only peacefully pleasant but also combative. Therefore, to draw solely on the metaphors of bride and mystical marriage would downplay it. Why then bellum and duellum? Because the genesis of the new means the annihilation (or at least overcoming and transforming) of the Old; moreover, the Old (the sinner) will understandably resist the loss of the Old (one’s own). Man is “per se” the enemy of God who does not want to let God be God.

Therefore, the genesis of faith is not only resurrectio, but also mors. “For this reason, as soon as we begin to believe, we also begin to die to this world and live to God in the life to come;‎ so that faith is truly a death and a resurrection, that is, it is that spiritual baptism into which we are submerged and from which we rise” (“Quare dum incipimus credere, simul incipimus mori huic mundo et vivere deo in futura vita, ut fides vere sit mors et resurrectio, hoc est spiritualis ille baptismus, quo immergimur et emergimus”).83 All the painful features that were interpreted in Mysticism accompany this mors: “so that henceforth (as St. Paul says in Galatians, 2) it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives, works and speaks in us. This is not accomplished with comfortable, pleasant days. On the contrary, in these circumstances a man must hurt his own nature and let it be hurt. Here the strife between the spirit and the flesh begins” (“das hynfurt (wie [Gal. 2, 20.] Paulus Gal. ij. sagt) nit wir, sonder Christus in uns lebe, wirck und rede. Das geschicht nu nit mit sussen, guten tagen, sondern hie musz man der natur weh thun unnd weh thun lassenn. Hie hebt sich der streyt zwischen dem geist und dem fleisch”).84

Luther discerns this quarrel on one hand in the relationship of the soul with Christ—on the other hand, carried further in the life of faith, when the second part of the De libertate (about Christian servitude) opens with the transfer of monastic and mystical exercises to every Christian. For in the tension of simul iustus et peccator85 everyone must overcome the Old in the light of the New—even in autoaggressive self-relation: “Here the works begin;‎ here a man cannot enjoy leisure;‎ here he must indeed take care to discipline his body by fastings, watchings, labors, and other reasonable discipline and to subject it to the Spirit so that it will obey and conform to the inner man and faith and not revolt against faith and hinder the inner man, as it is the nature of the body to do if it is not held in check” (“Hic iam incipiunt opera: hic non est ociandum: hic certe curandum, ut corpus ieiuniis, vigiliis, laboribus aliisque disciplinis moderatis exerceatur et spiritui subdatur ut homini interiori et fidei obediat et conformis sit, nec ei rebellet aut ipsum impediat, sicut est ingenium eius, si coercitus non fuerit”).86 This includes significantly the “mortifying” and “purifying of the lusts” (“mortificatio or purificatio concupiscentiarum87). This interpretation of Luther’s develops autoaggressive features of “castigation” (“castigatio”),88 such as were passed along from ascetic and mystical traditions so that bellum and duellum determine the life in faith in one’s self-relation.

Sola fide iustificari mere passive (“faith alone justifies through pure passivity”)

The “divina pati” characterized the neoplatonic tradition, the Aristotelian metaphor of “materia pura” the, which still was found in Nominalism. The mere passive of Luther is the creative synthesis of both traditions. The decisive aspect is that this pure passivity is a paradoxical predicate of the relationship with God and thus cuts across the correlative passivities in the relationship to the self and to the world. Passivity in the relationship with God can be separated into (1). a creaturely (creation); (2). hamartiological (sin); and (3). soteriological (justification mere passive89) passivity, which must be expanded in regard to (4). to the derivative renewed correlative passivity of Christian life (vita passiva in cooperatio, which is later called “sanctification”); and further to (5). the futuristic-eschatologically pure passivity of resurrection, judgment, and perfection of the world.

The soteriological agon of Old and New is not based on ascetic or mystical practice in suffering but in the understood Passion Christi: “True faith has as the end and use of Christ’s passion life and salvation” (“Fides vera habet finem seu usum passionis Christi vitam et salutem”).90 The passivity (of mere passive iustificari) consists in salvific “passio” of this “divine work in us,” which does not work on us abstractly or directly but authoritatively solo Christo and therefore is derived from hearing the word. The second and third passivities are the most relevant regarding faith by Luther—the overcoming of sin as harmartiological passivity and the effective assurance of righteousness as soteriological passivity. This pure passivity in the genesis of faith must be differentiated from the correlative passivity of the life of faith as usus passionis (which brings forth the vita passiva). Passivity in all of its multidimensionality is the decisive determinant of man for Luther in the genesis of faith, whether as self-interpretation of the subject, experience, or self-understanding. “It is a merely passive righteousness … For here we work nothing, render nothing to God; we only receive and permit someone else to work in us, namely God. Therefore it is appropriate to call the righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness “passive” (“hoc est mere passiva iustitia … Ibi enim nihil operamur aut reddimus Deo, sed tantum recipimus et patimur alium operantem in nobis, scilicet Deum. Ideo libet illam fidei seu Christianam iustitiam appellare passivam”).91

Many objections could be raised against pure passivity in the genesis and retention of faith. The most important might be that it assumes a logic of action as the basic model. However, Luther’s use of metaphor and paradox should not be taken literally. For then, metaphysics or absurdity would arise out of metaphor. Just as the doctrine of justification is a metadogma, which regulates the dogmas and their use, it also is a rule for the language and thought of faith. In this sense the mere passive is a basic figure that regulates thought and speech.

The sense and purpose of Luther’s passivity thesis is primarily soteriological—the salvific exclusion of man from the constitution of faith in order to strictly avoid both the logic of the law and addressing human capabilities or competencies. It is not a matter of “anthropological pessimism” or a tendency toward self-contradiction, to address man and simultaneously to exclude him. On the contrary, the new creation and reconciliation in justification must be seen as solo Deo: the old sinner should not in a self-contradictory manner jointly constitute the new (which would be either impossible or result in contamination). Therefore, Luther speaks of man as the “mere matter” (“materia pura”)92 of justification. To see only God working grounds the certainty of faith, which otherwise would always be dependent on the unreliable potentiality of man.

To set Christ’s passion as the basis and limit at the beginning of the series of the various passivities anchors the theologia crucis (against gloriae). This rules out the soteriological relevance of repetitions and variations of the passion in imitations of the cross (against mysticism).

This also means that soteriologically pure passivity is not to be seen as pain and suffering but as creative passivity (Jüngel93) or more precisely, as new creativity and salvific passivity—which can therefore also be understood as sensually alive in the sense of liberation and vivification. A fitting metaphorical expression of this passivity as the basic figure for interpreting faith is pure gift. “Christ is a merely passive person, not active but one that receives. If you do not let others give to you, you are no Christian” (“Christianus est homo mere passivus, non activus, der ym nur lesst geben. Si non sinis tibi dari, non es Christianus”).94

Luther utilizes a number of semantic variations regarding passivity and the gift of faith. One of them is in the mystical language tradition of raptus:95 “[by] faith he is caught up [rapitur] beyond himself into God” (“per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum”),96 which is also made applicable to his theology as a whole: “And this is the reason why our theology is certain: it snatches us away from ourselves and places us outside ourselves” (“Atque haec est ratio, cur nostra Theologia certa sit: Quia rapit nos a nobis et ponit nos extra nos”).97 Correspondent to raptus is “trahi”: man “rather yields passively to the teacher’s [i.e., Christ] speaking and God’s drawing” (“patitur loquentem doctorem et trahentem Deum”).98 The metaphorical relatives of mere passive could be multiplied and systematized. It is decisive here that the variations in his language show that passivity represents a grammatical and hermeneutical category of thought and speech, which is fundamental for Luther’s theology and use of language. If one were only to select the sublimated forms of activity here, such as “allowing” or “receptiveness,” Luther’s paradoxical rigor and categorical clarity would be lost. Thus, it is prominently stated in De servo arbitrio: “This man is simply passive (as they say) and does nothing, but becomes something, without qualification. It is “becoming” that John is speaking of: “To become children of God,” he says, by a power divinely bestowed on us, not by a power of free choice inherent in us.” (“Hic homo mere passive (ut dicitur) sese habet, nec facit quippiam, sed fit totus. De fieri enim loquitur Iohannes, fieri filios Dei dicit potestate divinitus nobis donata, non vi liberi arbitrii nobis insita”).99

fides facit personam

Luther’s strong thesis “fides facit personam” (“faith makes the person”)100 can be better explained against this background since man is defined as man by justification:101 Christ and the faithful person are “quasi one person.”102 Faith (as a divine work) is the constitution of the person in passive genesis by means of the unio, communio, and communicatio cum Christo. A single relationship of communication (solus Christus) creates the freed person, one-sidedly passive (genesis of faith mere passive), and unfolds its meaning by starting a reciprocal communication with Christ (cooperatio in the responsive act of faith) to all-around freedom in service (the life of faith in love and responsibility).

Accordingly, faith can be systematically formulated in a condensed manner as (1). A one-sided gift of the salvatory properties of Christ to the soul (just as one-sided as was previously the unio of word and soul). (2). One-sided adoption of the sinful properties of the soul by Christ (succinctly formulated: gift of the New and privation of the Old.) When “exchange,”103 “economy,”104 or “admirabile commercium” are mentioned, the economic metaphor is calculatedly taken ad absurdum by means of its further explication. In other words, the metaphor of exchange is exceeded105 in order to invoke “the other of exchange” or its opposite, namely, the pure gift.106 This corresponds to the fact that Luther considers the genesis of faith to be an aneconomic event (an unconditional, gratis, divine work). (3). The unitio and unio reveal their completed meaning in a significantly asymmetrical—more precisely a doubly one-sided—communication, which resembles the destructive (hamartiological) and constructive (soteriological) features (overcoming the old, creating the new) so that (4). the Christian freedom of faith based thereupon opens a three-sided reciprocity: coram Deo (giving God the honor to fulfill the first commandment), coram meipso (fighting against the Old, New life), and coram mundo (to love in service and responsibility). De facto, for the life of faith in Christian freedom the genus apotelesmaticum is called upon when Christ and Christian cooperate in all works (cooperatio). (5). Therefore, the distinction between justification and sanctification introduced later produces problems, which are not found in Luther. Since the imputatio107 is sc. “effective” as God’s work; and the genesis of faith is sustained like the creation, ever present and active in the life of faith. (6). When, with unitio, unio and communication, a Christological theorem is applied to soteriology (metaphorically), then Luther does the same with the doctrine of the threefold office (Amt) of Christ. For faith makes a Christian into a “minister” (Amtsperson): the priestly and kingly office of Christ become determinations of the believer.108 Not mentioned here is the prophetic office (why?). In this, an effect of the genus maiestaticum appears: the “inestimable power and liberty” (“inaestimabilis potentia et libertas”)109 becomes a characteristic of faith (not as a property but as an attribution and a determination).

fides creatrix divinitatis

The question of power arises out of the genus maiestaticum of faith: how powerful is faith? Luther goes so far as to declare the omnipotence of faith, as though God’s power passed through communicatio to faith (cf. Lk 1,37; Mk 9,23; 10,27). If one were to take faith to mean “divine work” here, it would be tautological: God’s work is “creatrix divinitatis.” Evidently, a change in perspective has occurred here in that the effect or potency of faith is seen from the point of view of man. “Faith is an almighty thing like God himself” (“Der glaub ist ain almechtig ding wie gott selber ist”).110 As was noted above, how faith speaks is particularly significant for Luther’s understanding of faith; here, the “how” of this theological formulation exhibits a certain “Christian freedom” or boldness. To take the paradoxes or hyperboles literally and to force their “logic” would miss the point and muddle their effect.

“[Faith] is the creator of the Deity;‎ not in the substance of God but in us. For without faith God loses His glory, wisdom, righteousness, truthfulness, mercy, etc., in us;‎ in short, God has none of His majesty or divinity where faith is absent … From this it can be understood what great righteousness faith is …”111 To posit faith as the salvific presence of God in man would be one thing; another, however, to speak of it as creator. Apparently the creativity of faith is being considered here, which not only creates the eschatologically new man but likewise God—which is not an absurd but a calculatedly absurd way of speaking (and as such metaphorical). Without faith, God would not be—not be salvifically present (in nobis). Above, the ontological setting was emphasized with regard to faith coram deo. Here, the feedback of relational ontology for God becomes an issue. Not until he is soteriologically at work in us, is he the justifying God.112

“As you believe about God, so you have him,” also, “Believe, and you have it”113 are analogous figures that formulate the creative power of faith and in no way contradict its pure passivity, but rather correspond to it. The power at work is God’s power. The question regarding hermeneutics and the theory of power remains how God and man work together in the creativity of faith? “The sacrament must be external and visible, having some material form or appearance. The significance must be internal and spiritual, within the spirit of the person. Faith must make both of them operative and useful together” (“Das Sacrament muß eußerlich und sichtlich seyn, yn eyner leyplichen form odder gestalt. Die bedeutung muß ynnerlich und geystlich seyn yn dem geyst des menschen. Der glaub muß die beyde zusamen zu nutz und yn den prauch bringen”)114 It is the use a believer makes of the sacrament that makes it a sacrament.

To question further, is Luther’s faith faith in Christ or is this concept of faith in fact (also) a faith in faith? That is to say, basic is faith in faith, in its power or even omnipotence? Of course, the ground of faith is Christ; thus the ground of its power is the power of God that works through it, etc. And nevertheless, faith is the medium of salvation—so that it requires a suitable measure of faith in faith in order to acknowledge faith as the medium of God’s real presence. Analogously, it holds that solo verbo, the wager on the power of the word, requires a prior significant faith in the word—as well as in later interpretations a faith in language or faith in the event of language. Just as mediality vanishes (is invisible or is made invisible) in favor of that which is medialized, so the faith in media seemingly must also remain latent or invisible in order to have “effect.” However, these precarious latencies are significantly protected in the Lutheran as well as in the hermeneutic and dialectic tradition.

Faith as Certainty Facing Challenge

Luther holds that “believing, one becomes certain”115 is essential. Like Bultmann later, he normatively distinguishes certainty (certitudo) from security (securitas)—and from opinio. While securitas is one’s own, for instance, due to one’s own capabilities or possession, certitudo is relational, a predicate of the relationship to God. Faith is certain because God’s mercy, fidelity, and justice are certain—as communicative properties of God, which determine his behavior toward us and thus our relationship with him. Hence, certainty is grounded extra nos, which makes its structure excentric.116 This is relevant in view of later interpretations, which base the certainty of faith on the self-certainty of the subject or conceive of it as self-relation of experience and its self-interpretation. The critical turn in Luther interpretation since Kant, manifest above all in the Erlanger school and in the Luther renaissance, is sc. possible—however, it is a definite extension of Luther. In contrast, for him, the form of experience and the way in which the certainty of faith is given are not primarily in self-relation (as in conscience for instance) because this remains constantly challenged (angefochten)—peccator in re. It is rather the medially structured relationship to God, mainly through word and sacrament, which function as media of certainty. Classically formulated, the word of the Gospel (promissio) is the way in which certainty is given. Those who want “more” (God “himself” or the self-relationship of the subject) will find less (deus nudus or the challenged subject).

If faith’s certainty of salvation is based on the verbum externum as the medium of Christ, then faith as certitudo is never securitas, a certainty that neither reason nor Logos would ensure; as certainty of salvation it rather is and remains grounded externally in the verbum promissionis. This does not contradict, but corresponds to peccator in re, iustus in spe, that faith too is always challenged (angefochten). Therefore, it is usual to find the whence of this challenge (Anfechtung) in man or the devil—what according to Luther should be understood as sent by God in order to lead to God.117 That challenge (Anfechtung) can come from God and has its seat in the conscience was already known in Mysticism. In Luther, one should further ask whether the challenge of faith can come from faith itself. If, Christologically, “God against God” (“Deus contra Deum”)118 pertains, it does so as well for faith when challenged, “faith against faith” (“fides contra fidem”).119 For faith (accomplished in us) does not possess nor dispose over itself but is constituted and directed ad extra, so that it never can become one’s own. Whoever seeks or lacks it, is challenged, from which only the excentric foundation, God in Christ, can help by the power of the promissio.

In light of the doctrine of justification, the corresponding anthropological principle is “simul iustus et peccator” (“righteous and a sinner at the same time”).120 The peccator in re, which we are and remain, is iustus in spe. This difference of the (eschatologically) old and new determines the existential dialectic of the life of faith. Reference was made above to the corresponding “polemic” consequences for ascetics and punishment in De libertate.

Analogous to the question: who lives and acts when we live in faith, is the basic question: who believes when “we” believe? The new man and/or Christ in us? The structure of this Who is in a double tension: iustus et peccator, which is crossed by and (soteriologically) differentiated through the relationship of God to us. On the one hand, in liminal encountering, it is Christ, who believes when we believe. On the other hand, responsorily, it is we (simul), who answer with confession, service, and life in faith.121

The Fruits of Faith: vita passiva

The effects of faith are basically twofold: destructive and constructive—the destruction of the Old and the construction of the New. Metaphorically, Luther called it mors et resurrectio: (1). Killing the “old Adam,”122 (2). resurrection of the new man in unity with Christ or what the eastern church fathers or the mystical tradition called “apotheosis”123: “In faith made similar to God, for how one is when touched in heart, so is my thinking of him/he” (“Hac fide fio similis deo, quia sicut ipse in corde affectus, ita meae cogitation es de eo”).124 Both together should be understood as both imputative and effective justification of the sinner. Both at once complexly, either in the sense that first the Old must be destroyed, made away with, or annihilated so that the New can take shape, or more closely evangelic: because the New displaces and overcomes the Old. “Both imputative and effective” must be understood just as complexly because the effect of the word of God (its “word-power”) unfolds in imputation or attribution of righteousness an effective justification (which was not analytically deconstructed until later). A perceptible effect is good conscience that faith is: “faith is nothing other than good conscience” (“Fides nihil aliud est quam bona conscientia”)125 or as Ebeling formulates it: “Although ever subject to challenge and fragile, conscience is the bridal chamber of Christ.”126

The sense and purpose of faith lies not in faith alone or simply for the believer to be with God in certainty of salvation (as though faith were a purpose all its own—that would be “egoism of salvation”); rather God effects faith, “so as to have us as his cooperators” (“ut nos habeat suos cooperatores”).127 This cooperatio is ethos out of pathos128—the life of faith as the creative effect of righteousness and freedom being bestowed mere passive.129

A basic figure through which Luther shows this is the vita passiva130 (in contrast to vita activa vs. contemplativa).131 The vita passiva is the life form of love of the mere passive given faith. Faith as pathic perception becomes a practical life form in that the believer acts in the context of the coram Deo coram mundo as one who is new. “The vita passiva … results … in a gain of identity … His passivity does not erase his activity but grounds it and enables it anew. Thus he is empowered to the cooperation on God’s creation.”132

Here we see how important Luther’s distinction of the purely passive genesis of faith from active forms of the life of faith is: not drawing a clear distinction entails the risk of confounding the soteriological passivity with ethical activity. The meaning of faith—is love,133 love of the neighbor (and everyone is our neighbor); but presupposing this caritas as formative for faith would lead to precisely the soteriological confusion that Luther consistently opposed. Thus, it is clear that here it is not a “faith formed by love” (fides caritate formata) that acts,134 because (or inasmuch) this: (1). would repeat the model of form and substance and (2). faith and works would be intermingled in that (3). works would be taken to be constitutive or formative for faith. Hence, it is critical that “this faith justifies without love and before love” (“Haec fides sine et ante caritatem iustificat”).135

“That we let God alone work in us and that in all our powers do we do nothing of our own,”136 does not hold true for the vita passiva in which we definitely act or not—not of our own accord but out of the righteousness encountered passively. This was evident from the formulation already cited: “For the suffering life … brings forth more good works, can accomplish much, advise and be of help to others, which one who is inexperienced cannot do.”137 What provided an example for Suso, his stylization of an (effective?) example of the holy life, is transferred to every Christian in Luther’s vita passiva. However, that does not diminish the call, from the pathos of justification in the ethos of the life of faith. It remains ambiguous whether the life of faith grounded in the genesis of faith is to be understood as an “imperative out of the indicative” of the imputated justice (as fulfillment of the law?), or whether this schema (current still in Bultmann and Jüngel) is not rather undermined by Luther. After all he speaks of “love and delight in all the commandments of God.”138 The fruits arise sua sponte (quasi naturally and involuntarily) and therefore not to be normatively reduced to fulfillment of the law but sooner understood to be as out of the fullness of love. If this is the case, however, the schema of indicative (of grace) and imperative (of freedom) no longer pertains.

Luther can hyperbolically claim that the Christian becomes the medium of Christ if “I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me”139 is true. The hyperbole in this is in need of clarification in terms of both symbol and medium: Does the vita passiva in its active love become the real presence of Christ just as the parable of the Good Samaritan leads us to expect; does the Christian become the messenger or representative of Christ (needing clarification of “representation”); or does he become the medium of communication of Christ’s spirit or, more carefully, does he become the symbol of faith in Christ that organizes his life accordingly (in the sense of Schleiermacher); or even more carefully, does he become the illustration and articulation of the adjudicated righteousness? Additional interpretations could be found and would show a problem of interpretation (“crux interpretum”): how should one describe the relation between the Christian and Christ in the Christian life that results from the (just as hyperbolic) unio and communicatio idiomatum of Christ and soul? As far as this unio cum Christo would become a communicatio realis, the works of faith are the medium of the presence of Christ’s spirit—analogous (or more?) to the communion, self-evidently “for Christ’s sake” (“propter Christum“), but “through faith” (“per fidem”).140 “Christ … is the form of faith” (“Christum … formam esse fidei”)141 can be understood to mean that in an act of faith the formative power of Christ becomes effective. The follow-up question is, who acts when it is done in the spirit of Christ: Christ, the Christian, Christ in or through the Christian, or both together in cooperatio?

Faith and Reason, Understanding, Experience, Trust

If faith is a new relationship to God and therefore to one’s self and all the world, then all possible “relations of faith to …” could be reexamined because they all get realigned. Since that would lead ad infinitum, only four aspects will be mentioned here as examples: Reason, Understanding, Experience, and Trust. Faith is not partially deficient cognition, the shortcomings of which might be compensated through assensus; it is not primarily cognition (cognitio) and also not initial, “natural” knowledge of God. These all would be determinations of faith in the perpective of Logos (as nous or cognitive faculties), which a will (assensus) would need to assist because of their deficiency.142 Hence, faith is not merely “justified true belief” and “not just belief that this proclamation [of the word of God] is true.”143 Faith is also not “historical faith” (“fides historica”) that lives from historical knowledge and believes in histories—that too would be faith, cognitively reduced to Logos; rather faith is “apprehensive faith” (“fides apprehensiva”).144 A false alternative must not be construed out of this because “if it came to that, that one should forget this story, then the foundation would crumble.”145

Furthermore, a contrarationality of the word of God can be found with Luther and therefore a contrafacticity of faith,146 which would depend “against all reason and sense on the word alone.”147 “In the place of ratio recta comes, then, fides.”148 However, the emphasis “But faith slaughters reason and kills the beast that the whole world and all the creatures cannot kill” (“At fides rationem mactat et occidit illam bestiam quam totus mundus et omnes creaturae occidere non possunt”)149 only pertains with respect to a reason that is conceived as the basis or pinnacle of faith and thereby undermines it. By contrast, Luther cannot regard natural reason highly enough in worldly matters.150 Reason is not excluded but rather transformed in faith, so that Luther would have to formulate “fides facit rationem” (novam). “In Christ they have a new grammar and logic, new language and new thinking and wisdom, that is: he makes all things new” (“In Christo autem habent novam grammaticam et dialecticam, novam linguam et novam cogitationem et sapientiam, das heist: nova facit omnia”).151

Faith is not to be understood as an act of reason, but faith seeks and needs understanding of what is believed and of faith itself;152 otherwise faith would be blind trust. The relationship of word to faith conceives it as forma verbi, which is to be interpreted christologically and soteriologically (Christ as verbum) as well as anthropologically and hermeneutically (speech event). This hermeneutic extension as, for example, how Ebeling and Ringleben lay it out, leads to an intermediation of the verbum externum that sets free a “new” understanding. Nova facit omnia applies here as well.

Faith as experience is essential to the understanding of the performance of faith in Luther. Faith is meant to be “experience-based wisdom” (“sapientia experimentalis“)153 or “experience-based cognition in Christ” (“experientalis cognitio in Christo”).154 Therefore, “Yet experience alone makes the theologian” (“Solaexperientia facit theologum”)155 pertains. Faith as experience is the experience of the effective presence of God in Christ mediated by word and sacrament. Experience of faith is therefore primarily genitivus subjectivus, in which the whither and where to of faith is experienced; secondarily, experience of the world (genitivus objectivus) in light of faith; tertiary, also the reflexive (self)-experience of faith (genitivus objectivus), from which arise confession, works, and theology. Not only the metaphor of divine work documents that faith is not to be reduced to experience but also the contrafacticity of faith that is not to be interpreted as a continuation of world- or self-experience. Therefore, experience is configured anew: “In nature, experience is the cause why we hear, and it precedes our assent; in theology, however, experience does not precede assent but follows it” (“In natura experientia est causa, cur audiamus, et praecedit assensum; in theologia autem experientia sequitur assensum, non praecedit”).156 With Luther and beyond him, one should speak of faith as experience against all other experience,157 or, as Ebeling and Jüngel put it, as meta-experience—as experience with all experience or also as an “experience which faith brings”158 and enables.

Luther’s “as-definitions” of faith center on “trust”159 as the form of performance of faith (as opposed to a merely contentual or doctrinal definition). Analogously, assurance or hearing (as understanding160) could also be mentioned. Hearing and faith also serve as correlates to the Word. However, trust (also in the history of its impact) has become the dominant interpretative model of faith (even as far as the irrelevant polemics against the fiducia as an early form of so-called fideism): “… that it is a trust in the Son of God or a trust of the heart in God through Christ” (“fiducia in filium Dei vel fiducia cordis per Christum in Deum”).161 Faith is trust, not in one’s own powers but in the power of God, resp. of Christ and, medially, of the word. Therefore we are told, “that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him.”162

Review of the Literature

As faith is the central topic of Lutheran theology, practically all presentations of Luther’s theology contain a discussion of faith. For this reason, no comprehensive review of the literature is possible. The list of further reading contains some classics that are available in English as well as new studies. Paul Althaus represents older, confessional Lutheranism. Gerhard Ebeling’s presentation establishes the hermeneutical manner of reading Luther that is dominant in recent German research.

Bernhard Lohse and Robert Kolb present historically well-informed overviews that emphasize the Protestant nature of Luther’s thought. Mannermaa and Saarinen bring Luther’s thinking closer to Roman Catholic and Patristic thought. Bayer, Mattes, and Vainio offer mediating positions. As the numerous individual studies quoted in the endnotes show, the different aspects of faith often reveal Luther’s proximity to a variety of different theological traditions and doctrinal positions.

Further Reading

Althaus, Paul. The Theology of Martin Luther. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, esp. 43–63.Find this resource:

Bayer, Oswald. Martin Luther’s Theology. A Contemporary Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008, esp. 127ff., 214ff., 282ff.Find this resource:

Dalferth, Ingolf. “Luther on the Experience of Faith.” The Heythrop Journal 21 (1980): 50–56.Find this resource:

Ebeling, Gerhard. Luther. An Introduction to His Thought. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007, esp. 159ff.Find this resource:

Kolb, Robert. Martin Luther. Confessor of the Faith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, esp. 110ff., 131ff., 172ff.Find this resource:

Lohse, Bernhard. Martin Luther. An Introduction to his Life and Work. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.Find this resource:

Mannermaa, Tuomo. Christ Present in Faith. Luther’s View of Justification. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Mattes, Mark. “Luther on Justification as Forensic and Effective,” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, Edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, 264–273. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Saarinen, Risto. “Justification by Faith. The View of the Mannermaa School,” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, Edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, 254–263. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Vainio, Olli-Pekka. “Faith,” In Engaging Luther. A (New) Theological Assessment, Edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, 138–154. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2010.Find this resource:


(1.) Gerhard Ebeling, Lutherstudien (LuSt). Disputatio de homine, vol 3, Die theologische Definition des Menschen. Kommentar zu These 20–40 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1982), 145.

(2.) The following material is largely based on the hermeneutical tradition of Luther research, above all, G. Ebeling and others (such as G. Bader, A. Beutel, V. Leppin, J. Ringleben, E. Jüngel, I. U. Dalferth, D. Korsch, and O. Bayer, among others). Cf. the following, above all, Das Luther-Lexikon, comp. Volker Leppin and Gury Schneider-Ludorff (Regensburg, Germany: Bückle & Böhm, 2014), s.v. “Glaube”; Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE), s.v. “Glaube” 6.2; Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 4th ed. (RGG4), s.v. “Glaube” 4.2; Eberhard Jüngel, Justification. The Heart of the Christian Faith. A Theological Study with an Ecumenical Purpose (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 236–259; Dietrich Korsch, “Rechtfertigung und Glaube,” in Luther Handbuch, 2d ed., ed. Albrecht Beutel (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 372–380. Martin Brecht, “Der rechtfertigende Glaube an das Evangelium von Jesus Christus als Mitte von Luthers Theologie,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 89.1–2 (1978): 45–77; Denis R. Janz, “What Did Luther Understand by ‘Faith’?,” in Reforming the Reformation. Essays in honor of Principal Peter Matheson, ed. Ian Breward (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly, 2004), 69–80.

(3.) Helmut Gollwitzer, “Von Glauben und Unglauben bei Luther,” in Evangelische Theologie 44.4 (1984): 360–379, 360, with reference to WA 7:215f. Reinhard Slenczka remarks in TRE s.v. “Glaube” 6.2, 320: “The theological definition of faith is bound to its practice.” All subsequent references to Luther’s writings are to Luther Works (LW), whereby the Weimarer edition (WA) is also cited. For texts not yet included in Luther’s Works, only the Weimar edition is cited. Other German literature is tacitly translated into English for better readability.

(4.) LW 8:255; WA 44:766, 37; cf. WA 45:69, 6; WA 21:277, 4–6.

(5.) Cf. WA 8:355, 37; and LW 26:383; WA 40/I:584, 19ff.

(6.) Cf. Philipp Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion. Zur Problemgeschichte einer ‚categoria non grata‘ (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr-Siebeck), 94–131.

(7.) Cf. TRE s.v. “Glaube” also RGG4 s.v. “Glaube.”

(8.) Cf. Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion, 132–213, 214–222; Alois M. Haas, Gottleiden—Gottlieben. Zur volkssprachlichen Mystik im Mittelalter (Frankfurt: Insel-Verlag, 1989), 264–285; Volker Leppin, “Luther’s Roots in Monastical-Mystical Piety,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 254–263; id., Die fremde Reformation. Luthers mystische Wurzeln (München, Germany: Beck, 2016).

(9.) Cf. also the “devotio moderna”: Rudolf Kekow, Luther und die Devotio Moderna (Düsseldorf, Germany: Nolte, 1937); Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR), s.v.v. “Devotio Moderna”; Manfred Gerwing, “Die sogenannte Devotio moderna,” in Jan Hus—Zwischen Zeiten, Völkern, Konfessionen, ed. Ferdinand Seibt (München, Germany: Oldenbourg, 1997), 49–58.

(10.) St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1920), II–II, Q. 2, art. 9.

(11.) Cf. ibid., Q. 174, art. 2, ad 3.

(12.) Cf. Duns Scotus, Opus Oxoniense, lib. III, dist. 23, q. un., n. 6.17f, in Opera omnia (Hildesheim, Germany: Olms, 1968), vol. 7.1, 462.471; cf. prol., q. IV, ibid., vol. 5.1, 163. Cf. William of Ockham, quodl. VI, q. 1, Opera philosophica et theologica (St. Bonaventure, NY: St. Bonaventure University, 1967ff), vol. 9, 585f; cf. lib. I, dist. 17, q. I, ibid., vol. 3, 440ff.

(13.) Dionysius, DN 648A/B in Corpus Dionysiacum, vol. I-II (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1990f), 134,1f.; cf. ibid. 684A; 872C/D; MTh 997B; Ep. 9,1105D.

(14.) Cf. Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion, 163ff.

(15.) It is at least misleading to say of “faith” that it is “nothing other than to allow Christ to act through his word” (Joachim Ringleben, “Wort und Rechtfertigungsglaube. Zur Horizontauffächerung einer Worttheologie in Luthers Disputation ‘De fide,’” in Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche (ZThK) 92.1 (1995): 28–53, 33). For “allowing” is “doing,” grammatically, semantically, pragmatically and juristically.

(16.) Cf. Reinhard Schwarz, Fides, spes und caritas beim jungen Luther. Unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der mittelalterlichen Tradition (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1962); Berndt Hamm, “Warum wurde für Luther der Glaube zum Zentralbegriff des christlichen Lebens?,” in Der frühe Luther. Etappen reformatorischer Neuorientierung (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 65–89.

(17.) Cf. in part LW 14; WA 5.

(18.) Cf. Berndt Hamm, “Von der Gottesliebe des Mittelalters zum Glauben Luthers. Ein Beitrag zur Bußgeschichte,” in Der frühe Luther, 1–24; ibid., “Warum wurde für Luther der Glaube zum Zentralbegriff des christlichen Lebens,” in Der frühe Luther, 65–89. Walter Bodenstein, Der einfältige Glaube. Luthers Entwicklung von 1521 bis 1525 (Tübingen, Germany: Katzmann, 1998).

(19.) Cf. Reinhold Rieger, “Ungläubiger Glaube? Beobachtungen zu Luthers Unterscheidung zwischen Glaube und Unglaube,” in Kerygma und Dogma 53.1 (2007): 35–56.

(20.) Cf. WA 37:76, 1–8.

(21.) Cf. regarding fides vera LW 34:109–114; WA 39/I:44–48; cf. Uwe Rieske, “Glaube und Aberglaube. Luthers Auslegung des Ersten Gebotes 1516/18,” in Lutherjahrbuch 69 (2002): 21–46.

(22.) Cf. Jürgen Boomgaarden, “Das höchste Werk des Menschen. Zur Problematik des Lutherischen Glaubensbegriffs,” in Theologische Zeitschrift 69.3 (2013): 207–237.

(23.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 440, cf. 441.

(24.) Nota bene that Ebeling thereby underestimated the contribution of German mysticism to this shift.

(25.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 177–207, 453ff. Luther may say person or conscience, but neither is associated with the intellect’s capacities of the soul.

(26.) WA TR 1:72, 16f.

(27.) WA 7:24, 22–27, italics P.S.

(28.) Johannes Fischer, Glaube als Erkenntnis. Zum Wahrnehmungscharakter des christlichen Glaubens (München: Kaiser, 1989), 77.

(29.) Cf. Ebeling, LuSt 3,3, 395ff, 461; cf. Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion, 261ff.

(30.) Cf. Wilfried Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967).

(31.) Cf. in addition the relevant works of Gerhard Ebeling, Eberhard Jüngel and Joachim Ringleben.

(32.) LW 35:370; WA DB 7:11, 6–9.

(33.) Regarding the equivalence of Kraft and Werk (power and action) cf. LW 33:35; WA 18:614, 15–18.

(34.) LW 34:160; WA 39/I:91, 1f; cf. LW 51:76; WA 10/III:15, 5–12: “Ich kan nit weytter kommen dann zû den orn, jns hertz kan ich nit kommen: dieweyl ich dann den glauben jns hertz nit giessen kann, so kann noch sol ich niemants darzû zwingen noch dringen, wenn got thut das alleyne und macht, das er vor jm hertzen lebt. Darumb sol mann das wort frey lassen und nit unser werck darzu thůn: wir haben wol jus verbi aber nicht executionem. Das wort soll wir predigen, aber die volge sol got alleyn in seim gefallen sein.” (“And since I cannot pour faith into their hearts, I cannot, nor should I, force any one to have faith. That is God’s work alone, who causes faith to live in the heart. Therefore we should give free course to the Word and not add our works to it. We have the ius verbi [right to speak] but not the executio [power to accomplish]. We should preach the Word, but the results must be left solely to God’s good pleasure.”)

(35.) LW 44:72; WA 6:244, 5f. Cf. LW 44:73; WA 6:244, 27–29, “die feyr, das unser werck auffhorenn unnd got allein in uns wirck, wirt zweyer weysz volnbracht. Zum erstenn durch unszer eygen ubung, zum andern durch anderer und frembd ubungen odder treyben.” (“The rest we are discussing, namely, that our works cease and that God alone works in us, is accomplished in two ways. In the first place through our own effort;‎ in the second, through the effort or urging of others.”)

(36.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 441.

(37.) Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther, 37f, cf. 42. Cf. Albrecht Beutel, Im Anfang war das Wort. Studien zu Luthers Sprachverständnis (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 438–481.

(38.) Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther, 304.

(39.) Cf. Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion, 309–363, esp. 350ff.

(40.) Cf. Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther, 302.

(41.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 143.

(42.) Cf. in contrast, Ebeling in his chapter “Der Glaube als Gottes Werk” (LuSt 2,3, 438ff).

(43.) WA 9:383, 15. Cf. Ulrich Asendorf, “Glaube—Verheißung—Christus, im Zusammenhang von Luthers Tauflehre“: Luther 41.1 (1970), 80–88; Oswald Bayer, Promissio. Geschichte der reformatorischen Wende in Luthers Theologie (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971).

(44.) WA 37:135, 15–18.

(45.) LC I 3.

(46.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 144; cf. ibid., Wort und Glaube 1–4 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1960ff.). Cf. Joachim Ringleben, Wort und Rechtfertigungsglaube.

(47.) LW 27:249; WA 2:509, 13–l5.

(48.) Cf. Eberhard Jüngel, Das Evangelium von der Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen als Zentrum des christlichen Glaubens, 169ff.

(49.) Examples of this are found in interpretations by Ernst Bizer, Fides ex auditu. Eine Untersuchung über die Entdeckung der Gerechtigkeit Gottes durch Martin Luther, 3d ed. (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1966); Oswald Bayer, Promissio; Gerhard Ebeling, Wort und Glaube; Eberhard Jüngel (with Karl Barth); Joachim Ringleben, Gott im Wort; or Albrecht Beutel, Im Anfang war das Wort.

(50.) Cf. LW 36:38f.; WA 6:514, 13f.

(51.) Eero Huovinen, “Der infusio-Gedanke als Problem der Lutherforschung,” in Caritas Dei. Beiträge zum Verständnis Luthers und der gegenwärtigen Ökumene, ed. Oswald Bayer (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1997), 192–204.

(52.) WA 6:85, 6ff. Cf. LW 34:153; WA 39/I:83, 24–27, “Iam certum est, Christum seu iustitiam Christi, cum sit extra nos et aliena nobis, non posse nostris operibus comprehendi. Sed fides, quae ex auditu Christi nobis per spiritum sanctum infunditur, ipsa comprehendit Christum.”

(53.) WA 39/I:492, 3.

(54.) WA 12:556, 9–14; cf. WA 17/II:234, 7–19.

(55.) LW 31:346; WA 7:51, 17.

(56.) Cf. in addition, LW 26:166–179; WA 40/I:281–300 regarding unio of man with Christ in faith and series of theses De fide, above all, WA 31/I:45f.; cf. Ebeling LuSt 2,3, 174–177. 450f.; cf. ibid. 459: “Ist doch die unio Gottes mit der Menschheit in Christus der Grund der Glaubens unio mit Christus.” The work of the Mannermaa school is also noteworthy which sees the central significance of Luther’s doctrine of justification in the unio of man with Christ. Cf. in particular Tuomo Mannermaa, Christ Present in Faith. Luther’s View of Justification (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005). Risto Saarinen gives an overview of the Mannermaa school in “Justification by Faith. The View of the Mannermaa School,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 254–263; cf. Olli-Pekka Vainio, ed., Engaging Luther. A (New) Theological Assessment (Eugene: Cascade, 2010).

(57.) Cf. LW 31:349–350; WA 7:53, 15–33; cf. Reinhold Rieger, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 159–168.

(58.) LW 31:349;WA 7:54, 19f.

(59.) LW 31:349; WA 7:53, 26–28.

(60.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 505.

(61.) LW 31:349; WA 7:53, 31f.

(62.) Cf. Oswald Bayer and Benjamin Gleede, eds., Creator est creatura. Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007).

(63.) “Opus dei et virtus eius est fides: ipsa enim facit iustos et operatur omnes virtutes, castigat et crucifigit et infirmat carnem” (LW 11:12; WA 3:532, 13). Thus, early Luther; later he says that fides is not virtus, cf. LW 31:343–344; WA 7:49, 7–19.

(64.) LW 31:350; WA 7:53, 35.

(65.) LW 31:350; WA 7:54, 3f.

(66.) LW 31:351; WA 7:54, 23–25.

(67.) Here the distinction must be made between gratia and donum: “Everything is forgiven through grace [gratia], but as yet not everything is healed through the gift [donum]” (LW 32:229; WA 8:107, 21). Cf. Manfred Schloenbach, Glaube als Geschenk Gottes. Das Glaubensverständnis Luthers nach der Unterscheidung von Gnade und Gabe (Stuttgart, Germany: Calwer, 1962), who examines in detail faith as the gracious gift of God (as Huld or favor). Cf. Risto Saarinen, who examines this in detail, in God and the Gift. An Ecumenical Theology of Giving (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005) and idem.

(68.) LW 31:351; WA 7:54, 31.

(69.) LW 31:351; WA 7:54, 31, italics P.S.

(70.) Cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 169f.

(71.) As is known, the Song of Songs with its history of interpretation of nuptial mysticism forms the backdrop (cf. Bernhard v. Clairvaux, Sermo 7,2); cf. Rieger, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, 182ff.

(72.) LW 31:351; WA 7:54, 33.

(73.) LW 31:351; WA 7:54, 33f, italics P.S.

(74.) LW 31:351; WA 7:54, 35f.

(75.) Cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 173.

(76.) Cf. Rieger, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, 186–195.

(77.) Cf. Paul Althaus, Die christliche Wahrheit, 8th ed. (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1969), 451ff; David Friedrich Strauss, Die christliche Glaubenslehre in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung und im Kampf mit der modernen Wissenschaft, vol. 2 (Tübingen, Germany: Osiander, 1841), 133–135; Gottfried Thomasius, Christi Person und Werk. Darstellung der evangelisch-lutherischen Dogmatik vom Mittelpunkte der Christologie aus, Bd. 2 (Erlangen, Germany: Bläsingen, 1857), 213–220.

(78.) LW 31:351–352; WA 7:55, 8–18, italics P.S.

(79.) LW 31:351; WA 7:55, 7.

(80.) WA 7:25, 34, italics P.S.

(81.) LW 31:351; WA 7:55, 8.

(82.) LW 31:352; WA 7:55, 16; regarding the duellum mirabile Christi cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 171f (with note 261 regarding the historic background).

(83.) LW 36:68; WA 6:534, 15ff.

(84.) LW 44:73; WA 6:244, 16–20.

(85.) Cf. among others Kjell Ove Nilsson, Simul. Das Miteinander von Göttlichem und Menschlichem in Luthers Theologie (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966).

(86.) LW 31:358–359; WA 7:60, 2–6.

(87.) LW 31:359–360; WA 7:60, 19–38.

(88.) LW 31:359; WA 7:60, 31.

(89.) Regarding mere passive of justification by faith cf. WA 57:193, 1–7; LW 25:365; WA 56:375, 15–24; LW 26:259; WA 40/I:407, 14–17; WA 34/II:414, 4–6, 19–29; LW 13:137–138; WA 40/III:588, 2–10; LW 13:140; WA 40/III:590, 29–32; WA 45:461, 30–32; LW 34:110 (Theses 33 and 34); WA 39/I:176, 33–35.

(90.) LW 34:110 (Thesis 20); WA 39/I:45, 39f.

(91.) LW 26:4f.; WA 40/I:41, 18–21; cf. LW 34:337; WA 54:186, 7.

(92.) “Nota, quod divina pati magis quam agere oportet, immo et sensus et intellectus est naturaliter etiam virtus passiva…. Nos materia sumus pura, deus formae factor, omnia enim in nobis operatur deus” (WA 9:97, 12–16, italics P.S.). Cf. Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion, 220ff.

(93.) Jüngel, Das Evangelium von der Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen als Zentrum des christlichen Glaubens, 155.

(94.) WA 34/II:414, 4–6; cf. 20–29: “Christianus est homo mere passivus, non activus. Wen dw nymmer entpfehest, non es Christianus, Nicht von Bethen, Fasten, Wallen &c.. sunst werest dw eyn Bether, Faster, Pylgram, sed tantum ex accipiendo, Das ich ich do nichts gethan habe den entpfangen. Quae res sit quam difficilis quidem, experitur. Ideo Paulus Ro. 7. conqueritur: ‘Invenio in carne mea non bonum.’ Non loquitur hic de concupiscencia, sed de illa opinione, quod non potuit separare a se merita. Jst das nicht eyn schalk, qui sentit se egere et Christum velle dare und darffs doch nicht nhemen? Summa: oportet nos facere sicut mulier: Er durch dryngen und nhemen.”

(95.) Cf. LW 31:371; WA 7:69,12–16: “A Christian lives not in himself, but [by] faith he is caught up [rapitur] beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor. Yet he always remains in God and his love.” (“Christianum hominem non vivere in seipso, sed in Christo et proximo suo, aut Christianum non esse, in Christo per fidem, in proximo per charitatem: per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum, rursum per charitatem labitur infra se in proximum, manens tamen semper in deo et charitate eius”). Regarding “rapi” cf. in addition: LW 32:371; WA 8:111, 29–35; LW 32:240; WA 8:115, 14–17; WA 7:22, 31–34. Cf. Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen, Nos extra nos. Luthers Theologie zwischen Mystik und Scholastik (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1972).

(96.) LW 31:371; WA 7:69, 14; cf. LW 33:286; WA 18:782, 8–10: “There is then another ‘drawing’ …;‎ for then Christ is set forth by the light of the spirit, so that a man is swept away to Christ with the sweetest rapture” (“Ibi alius tractus est, … ibi ostenditur Christus per illuminationem spiritus, qua rapitur homo ad Christum dulcissimo raptu”).

(97.) LW 26:387; WA 40/I:589, 25f.

(98.) LW 33:286; WA 18:782, 10f. Note the different translation of “doctorem.”

(99.) LW 33:157; WA 18:697, 27–30.

(100.) WA 39/I:283, 18f.; cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 183–207.

(101.) LW 34:139 (Theses 32 and 33); WA 39/I;176, 33–35.

(102.) LW 26:168; WA 40/I:285, 5.

(103.) WA 7:25, 34.

(104.) WA 7:26, 5.

(105.) Cf. Blumenberg, “Paradigmen zu einer Metaphorologie,” in Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte 6 (1960), 131f.

(106.) Consequently, Ebeling thinks, it is a “completely unequal exchange …, whereas in the positive view, Christ alone is the one giving and man the one receiving” (LuSt 2,3, 175).

(107.) Cf. Sibylle Rolf, “Luther’s understanding of ‘imputatio’ in the context of his doctrine of justification and its consequences for the preaching of the gospel,” in International Journal of Systematic Theology 12.4 (2010): 435–451.

(108.) Cf. LW 31:353f.; WA 7:56, 15–34; LW 31:354f.; WA 7:56, 35–57, 23.

(109.) LW 31:355; WA 7:57, 23.

(110.) WA 10/III:214, 26.

(111.) LW 26:227; WA 40/I:360, 25–28; cf. Walter Mostert, “‘Fides creatrix.’ Dogmatische Erwägungen über Kreativität und Konkretion des Glaubens,” in Glaube und Hermeneutik. Gesammelte Aufsätze, eds. Pierre Bühler und Gerhard Ebeling (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 200–214; cf. LuSt 3, 193–211.

(112.) Cf. LW 35:370f.; WA DB 7:8, 30–10, 27; WA 41:356, 2–357, 31; WA 46:131, 19–21. Cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 145: “Seen in this way, even the boldest statement about the participation of faith in the omnipotence of God does not place the absolute primacy of the creative word of God in doubt.”

(113.) LW 35:38; WA 2:733, 35f; cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 469; LW 31:348f; WA 7:53, 6f: “… si credis, habebis, si non credis carebis;” cf. WA 7:24, 13f; WA 37:79, 14; WA 37:179, 14; WA 37:190, 1; WA 45:7, 3; WA 5:562, 14; WA 5:576, 7; WA 5:589, 8; WA 40/II: 342, 15–343, 4.

(114.) LW 35:49; WA 2:742, 10–14.

(115.) WA 30/II:688, 5.

(116.) Cf. Sven Grosse, “Salvation and the Certitude of Faith. Luther on Assurance,” in Pro Ecclesia 20.1 (2011): 64–85.

(117.) Cf. WA 1:59, 16–28.

(118.) Cf. WA 45:370, 34–36: “Der kampff deß todts ym gartten Jst mit dem nicht zuvergleichen. Denn da streydet Got mit Gott, yhm gartten hat er noch ein got gehabt, der yhm gnedig sey.” “The battle of death in the garden cannot be compared to it. For, there in the garden, God is quarreling with God; he still had a God in the garden who showed him mercy.”

(119.) WA 29:513, 6; cf. Philipp Stoellger, “Glaube als Anfechtung? Zur Hermeneutik der Differenz von Anfechtung und Versuchung,” in Anfechtung. Ingolf U. Dalferth zum 65. Geburtstag, eds. Pierre Bühler and Andreas Hunziker (Leipzig, Germany: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, forthcoming). Gerhard Ebeling, “Die Klage über das Erfahrungsdefizit in der Theologie als Frage nach ihrer Sache,” in Wort und Glaube 3 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1975), 6f. 13f; Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Der Einfluß der Anfechtungserfahrung auf den Prädestinationsbegriff Luthers,” in Kerygma und Dogma 3 (1957): 109–139.

(120.) LW 26:232; WA 40/I:368, 26; cf. LW 27:231; WA 2:497, 13; LW 25:63; WA 56:70, 9f; LW 25:260; WA 56:272, 17; WA 57:165, 12.

(121.) Cf. LC II 10, “so that the Creed [Glaube] is nothing else than the answer and confession of Christians arranged with respect to the First Commandment.”

(122.) LW 35:370; WA DB 7:11, 7f.

(123.) WA 17/I:438, 23; cf. LW 27:220f.; WA 2:490, 17–33.

(124.) WA 37:453, 8–11.

(125.) WA 20:718, 11–20; cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 464f.

(126.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 465.

(127.) LW 33:155; WA 18:695, 29.

(128.) Cf. Max Josef Suda, “Aktiver und passiver Glaube bei Luther,” in Wiener Jahrbuch für Theologie 7 (2008), 219–229; Antti Raunio, “Natural Law and Faith. The Forgotten Foundations of Ethics in Luther’s Theology,” in Union With Christ. The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, eds. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 96–124.

(129.) WA 39/II:238,1f.: “God’s gifts, true faith, hope, and love, are vivifying and powerful, they do not sleep” (“Dona Dei sunt vivifica et energica, non stertentia, vera fides spes charitas”).

(130.) Cf. Stoellger, Passivität aus Passion (Passivity from Passion), 298–308. Cf. among others WA 1:417; WA 2:354; WA 4:84; WA 5:165f; WA 24:558; WA 31/I:519; WA 34/II:488; WA 38:519, 9; WA 41:56, 27; WA 41:60; WA 43:201, 2; LW 6:398; WA 44:298, 7; WA 57:33, 80; WA 59:566.

(131.) WA 5:85, 1–3.

(132.) Christian Link, “Vita passiva. Rechtfertigung als Lebensvorgang,” in Evangelische Theologie 44.4 (1984): 315–351, 350.

(133.) Cf. Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 452.

(134.) Cf. LW 26:127f.; WA 40/I:225, 26–226, 19; LW 26:129; WA 40/I:228, 19–26; WA 39/I:318,9–17; WA 39/II:207, 38–208, 3; WA 39/II:213, 24–214, 17. Cf. Wilfried Härle: “Glaube und Liebe bei Martin Luther,” in Glauben—Lieben—Hoffen. Theologische Einsichten und Aufgaben, eds. Michael Roth und Kai Horstmann (Münster, Germany: Lit, 2001), 76–94.

(135.) LW 26:137; WA 40/I:240, 16.

(136.) LW 44:72; WA 6:244, 5.

(137.) WA 24:558, 9–11.

(138.) LC II 69.

(139.) LW 31:367; WA 7:35, 32–35.

(140.) CA IV 1f.

(141.) LW 26:130; WA 40/I:229, 28; cf. LW 26:129; WA 40/I:228, 30.

(142.) Cf. however, approaches to natural knowledge of God LW 19:54; WA 19:206, 7–13; LW 34:137 (Theses 10 and 11); WA 39/I:175, 20–25.

(143.) Ingolf U. Dalferth, “Luther on the Experience of Faith,” in Heythrop Journal 21.1 (1980): 50–56, 55.

(144.) Cf. LW 34:137 (Thesis 12); WA 39/I:45, 21. As a consequence, traditional disjunctions of faith no longer pertain: act/object of faith (fides qua/quae, as well as acquisita/infusa, informis/formata, implicita/explicita, etc., cf. WA 6:84–86). For “[...] rather not the object but, so to speak, the One who is present in the faith itself” (LW 26:129; WA 40/I:229, 15).

(145.) WA 29:657, 3f. Whereby ‘foundation’ here is not to be overinterpreted since it concerns the “the effect of the history—namely, … the forgiveness of sins” (CA XX 23), as Melanchthon made clear.

(146.) Johann Anselm Steiger, “Kontrarationalität und neue Rationalität des Glaubens in der Theologie Martin Luthers,” in Prädestination und Willensfreiheit. Luther, Erasmus, Calvin und ihre Wirkungsgeschichte (Leipzig, Germany: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2009), 23–34, bes. 27f. Cf. Brian A. Gerrish, Grace and Reason. A Study in the Theology of Luther (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005); Bernhard Lohse, Ratio und Fides. Eine Untersuchung über die Ratio in der Theologie Luthers (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1957); Bruce D. Marshall, “Faith and reason reconsidered. Aquinas and Luther on deciding what is true,” in The Thomist 63.1 (1999): 1–48.

(147.) WA 37:43, 26f.

(148.) Ebeling, LuSt 2,3, 344, with note 260; cf. ibid., 455f.

(149.) LW 26:228; WA 40/I:362, 15f.; cf. Ebeling, LuSt 3, 213–222.

(150.) Cf. LW 34:137 (Thesis 5); WA 39/I:175, 11–13, “It is the inventor and mentor of all the arts, medicines, laws, and of whatever wisdom, power, virtue, and glory men possess in this life” (“inventrix et gubernatrix omnium Artium, Medicinarum, Iurium, et quidquid in hac vita sapientiae, potentiae, virtutis et gloriae ab hominibus possidetur”).

(151.) WA 39/II:304, 6–8.

(152.) LW 33:23; WA 18:605, 7f.

(153.) WA 9:98, 21.

(154.) WA 3:230, 10.

(155.) LW 54:7; WA TR 1:16, 13.

(156.) WA TR 1:183, 25–27.

(157.) Cf. WA 5:84, 39f; WA 31/I:488, 18f (“contra spem in spem credidit”).

(158.) Hans-Martin Barth, “Fides Creatrix Divinitatis. Bemerkungen zu Luthers Rede von Gott und dem Glauben,” in Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie 14.1 (1972): 89–106.

(159.) Oswald Bayer, “Vertrauen bei Luther,” in Kerygma und Dogma 60.4 (2014): 355–365.

(160.) Cf. LW 34:110 (Theses 13 and 14); WA 39/I:45, 23–26.

(161.) LW 26:231; WA 40/I:366, 24f.

(162.) LC 12.