The Incarnation in Martin Luther’s Theology
Summary and Keywords
Luther’s understanding of the Incarnation concerns various subject areas in his theology, among them his understanding of scripture, his teaching on the sacraments in particular, as well as his description of a human being’s life of faith. All these subject areas are based on Luther’s Christology, which is essentially determined by his insights into the Incarnation and the humanity of God in Jesus Christ.
Luther’s description of the Incarnation and the humanity of God is particularly oriented towards the creed of Chalcedon. The insight that Christ is at the same time true human and true god is something Luther holds as relevant to salvation. For this reason, it is important for him on the one hand to think about the Incarnation of God in a Trinitarian context and thereby to highlight Christ’s divine existence. On the other hand, he refers to the concept of the Virgin Birth in order to show that God was born a real human being. Luther describes the union of God and man in Christ principally as a reciprocal exchange of the respective divine and human characteristics. He uses the figure of the communication of properties (communicatio idiomatum) to highlight the Incarnation’s fundamental significance for salvation, which becomes manifest in the course of Christ’s life.
Luther’s conception of the fact and manner in which human and divine natures are united with each other in Christ is of soteriological relevance. With the incarnate God, the sin that Christ has taken upon himself for the salvation of humankind is defeated on the Cross, since by virtue of his human nature the characteristics of being able to suffer and to die were proper to the incarnate Son of God. Accordingly, God himself suffers and dies on the Cross in Christ for his own creatures under the burden of their sins. On the Cross, the God who died in Christ and with his resurrection has overcome the death of sin meets his creatures so that they attain faith and ultimately eternal life in community with God. This saving event is, according to Luther, founded in God’s immeasurable love.
The saving effectiveness of Incarnation, Cross, and resurrection presupposes Christian proclamation, according to Luther. The preaching of the incarnate God is needed, so that through the operation of the Holy Spirit the truth of the proclaimed event can be recognized and faith can thereby arise. In faith in the Son of God who has become man, the believer himself experiences a most intimate connection with Christ. According to Luther, this community of faith determines the consummation of the life of the believer, who therefore lives in love for God and for neighbor because the love of God has been revealed to him/her in Christ.
The community of Christ’s faithful with one another is, according to Luther, above all formed through the celebration of the sacraments. In celebrating them, the believers experience the real presence of the incarnate God in Christ, through whom they are bound in faith based on the communication of properties between the human and divine natures.
The event of the Incarnation, in the sense of “becoming flesh,” “indwelling,” or “interiorization” plays a leading role in Luther’s theology when discussion is about the fact and the way God reveals and realizes the love essential to Him in his creation.1 In an original way essential for salvation, according to Luther, the Incarnation took place when God became man in Jesus Christ. With this event, God showed his love, which seeks to receive the human being into his community of God: “Now we have received simple love and benefit from God, for is that not a great ineffable love which his only-begotten Son has sent down from heaven and cast in flesh, on which he saved and redeemed us from sin, death, devil, and hell?”2 God’s Incarnation, or rather the fact “that he has sent his only-begotten Son … into flesh,” is a prerequisite, so Luther, for the redemption of the human being from sin into God’s eternal community (shown in section “Jesus Christ”).
God’s becoming human acquires salvation-effecting meaning only through the medium of human annunciation and the celebration of the sacraments. That is why it is important to portray and show these two means that the Holy Spirit employs to bring about faith in their relationship to the original Incarnation, insofar as they can not only make it manifest but can even make it present (shown in section “Preaching and Sacraments”).
In addition, Christian faith in God’s eternal love effected through the Spirit, which moves the believer to expressions of love, as well as the nature of the community of faith (Church) in Luther’s theology can properly be understood only with reference to God’s Incarnation. On the one hand, the close connection of God’s Incarnation and effecting of faith needs to be shown, on the other, however, the two must be clearly distinguished from each other (shown in section “The Christian Person and the Christian Community”).
These three interrelated thematic areas will be treated in the following sections, which deals with the actual understanding of “Incarnation,” and their connection with the Incarnation of God in Christ will be shown in sections “Preaching and Sacraments” and “The Christian Person and the Christian Community.”
With regards to the portrayal of the event and the significance of God’s becoming man, Luther is particularly oriented towards two strands of Biblical tradition. For one, he turns to the Johannine expositions that are concerned with the fact3 that the Word of God (Logos) became “flesh.”4 For the other, Luther draws on statements about the spiritual begetting of the incarnate God and his birth from the Virgin Mary.5 According to Luther, the Word of God, or creative Word, was born of the Virgin as true man and true God.
Luther’s theology is oriented towards the truly God and truly man of Chalcedon,6 a formula that guides Luther’s understanding of the Incarnation. As true God and at the same time true man, Christ lived, suffered, died on earth, rose again, and ascended to heaven. And even since his ascension, the union of God and man has not been nullified, a crucial point for Luther’s understanding of the Eucharist.7
The event of the Incarnation, as well as the unity of God and man in Christ, raises some questions.
In the first place, there is the question of how the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit can be represented with regard to the Incarnation only of the Son. How can the intra-Trinitarian relationship of God be thought of together with the extra-Trinitarian event of the Incarnation (see section “Eternal Word (Logos)”)? And in the second place, how the birth of Christ in God’s creation can be represented as birth by a virgin also has to be dealt with (see section “Child of Humankind”). This leads to the question of how to imagine the nature of Christ, who is affirmed to be at once true God and true man, but sinless, in contrast to every human being (see section “Communication of Properties (communicatio idiomatum)”).
The nature of Christ is the crucial factor for how the revelation of God’s love in him and through him, and thus his redeeming power, is represented. To be able to comprehend the redeeming operation of the incarnate God more clearly, one must consider the Crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as the Crucifixion and resurrection of the incarnate God (see section “Cross and Resurrection”).
God and Man at One and the Same Time
The act of becoming human poses the challenge of describing the union of God and man as the Almighty’s becoming present in space and time. Here, according to Luther, only one of the three Persons8 of the Almighty is supposed to have entered into its creation. One of the Persons of God, the eternal and omnipresent, became present in space and time through his Incarnation.
Eternal Word (Logos)
Luther maintains that although from eternity the Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinguished from one another by the Son being begotten9 and born10 of the Father from eternity, and the Spirit proceeds from the Son as from the Father, God is nonetheless of one being, and all three Persons are “of the same splendor and majesty.”11
Luther compares the triune interrelationship of the three Persons of God with a conversation in which the Father is presented as eternal Speaker, the Son as eternal Word, and the Holy Spirit as eternal Listener.12 The Son is the Word with which the Creator has brought forth creation.13 This almighty creative Word, which gives the being and will of God effective expression, has brought about creation.14 As this creative Word, the Son is in no way subordinate or inferior to the Father. All things considered, God’s total work of creation and preservation, just like the creation of every single human being and thus also the human being Jesus of Nazareth, is correctly understood only as a collaborative work of the Trinity.15 Nonetheless, only the Person of the Son has become man, but in it the essence of the Trinity obviously remains unhindered.16 With the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Luther maintains that the eternal creative Word has become flesh in Christ.17 Because this Word from eternity18 is “God himself,”19 the Creator reveals himself and his creative will20 by his engagement as the eternal and omnipresent21 with the Incarnation of the Son in time and space. So, following Luther’s reasoning, he manifests the affirmation of his creation from eternity based in his love, which is just created through the incarnate Word (Logos).
In Christ, according to Luther, only the Person of the Son has become human, to be sure, but since he is identical in being to the other two Persons, it reveals God’s whole being. This must be kept in mind when attempting to correctly understand Luther’s precise distinction between a hidden and a revealed God (Deus absconditus/Deus revelatus). Certainly, according to Luther, no human being during his/her earthly existence can recognize the specific intentions which God is pursuing, that he does not protect his creatures from evil, suffering, and death, but rather in his omnipotence is causing life and death, prosperity and want, and allowing these conditions to occur.22 God’s will with regard to specific life situations remains hidden from the human being during his earthly existence, and this is expressed by Luther in his talk of the hidden God. But in the light of glory (lumen gloriae), a human being can achieve insight into how life’s individual events are connected and recognize how they are all founded in God’s being. Until then, he/she should hold fast to the Word of God revealed in Christ, since this gives him/her insight into God’s essence, which forms the basis of all that happens in the world, and thereby opens up the saving realization that all individual world events are fundamentally borne and contained by God’s steadfast love.23
According to Luther, it is of crucial relevance that sufficient attention be paid to Christ’s being truly God. For this reason, he emphasizes the unity of being of God’s incarnate Word with God the Trinity in such a way that he even says, in Christ God the Creator became man.24
In addition, he maintains that while the Incarnation of God happened at a definite time in God’s creation, it was nevertheless, together with the creation, intended from eternity by the Creator.25 The event of the Incarnation is, according to Luther, in complete accord with God’s almighty foreknowledge and his infallible predestination of his redeeming act in the creation, which is owed just as much to his love as his creation.26 On the basis of “simple, inexpressible love,” God has “created us just for this end, that he redeem and sanctify us; and besides having given and done everything for us that is in heaven and on earth, he has also given us his Son and the Holy Spirit, through whom he brought us to himself.”27
Since, as will moreover become evident in the following section, the Incarnation of the Son of God is an indispensable prerequisite for the redemption of humankind; it is part of God’s act of redemption, in which Christ’s death on the Cross and his resurrection are also included. God’s redeeming act, according to Luther, has as its objective to give human beings a share in just that community of God and man which is realized in Christ, and thus to guarantee them community with God.
Child of Humankind
Just as Luther emphasizes that Christ is truly God, he also brings his truly human nature into prominence. For this, he makes particular reference to Luke’s story of Christ’s birth from the Virgin Mary. Luther does definitely note that a virgin birth can only be accomplished by disregarding the natural order wrought by the Creator himself, according to which human fathers are necessary for the procreation of human beings,28 but at the same time he sees an opportunity in it to imagine the collaboration of God and human in the union of God and human. The Holy Spirit cooperated with Mary,29 who surrendered herself in faith to him and his action.30 Thereby, it was by the Spirit having caused the creative Word to dwell within her that she became the Mother of Christ.31
Luther holds that Christ is born as true man of a human mother by laying great stress on the fact that in Christ God took on not only a human body, but as a true human being with a body and a soul in addition to physical pain was also subjected to sinful humanity’s emotional suffering.32 Although Christ, unlike every other human being, is not only created sinless but was also born sinless and lived without sin.33 This in turn, however, signifies no essential difference in opposition to human creatures, all of whom are created sinless by God. Sinfulness is, according to Luther, not a characteristic that distinguishes a human being’s humanity.34
Decisive for Luther’s understanding of the Incarnation of God is that through it true God and true man are united, in fact in one Person.35 This unity is described by Luther as indispensably pertinent to salvation, since in it God’s love is expressed. God’s intention to have fellowship with humankind is represented, indeed personified, in Jesus Christ, and through him this fellowship is granted to human beings.36
In his description of the union of God and man in Christ, Luther is oriented towards the testimony of the Bible and assumes that the Spirit’s collaboration with the Virgin Mary led to her receiving the creative Word, and therefore through her the eternal Son of God was born as man in time and space. In his adherence to this Biblical concept, he takes the human nature of Christ insufficiently into consideration, in my opinion, for the humanity of a human being is crucially defined by just that fact, that he comes not only from a human mother, but also from a human father.
Luther’s emphasis, that a human soul is also proper to the incarnate God for the sake of his true humanity, is above all significant for the understanding of Christ’s Passion on the Cross. But how, in this situation of the most extreme suffering, can a human body, human intellect, and a human soul be imagined as united with God in one person?37
The Fulfillment of the Incarnate God’s Life
Communication of Properties (communicatio idiomatum)
Luther holds that, “two natures, divine and human, are indivisibly united in one person, Christ.”38 In order to describe this indivisible unity of divine and human nature in Christ, Luther makes use of the figure of speech known as “communication of properties” (communicatio idiomatum).39 In the Incarnate God, two natures that are poles apart are united with each other,40 whereby the expression divine “nature” indicates no quality that is created, in contrast to human nature.
The natures of Christ should be envisioned as indivisibly united,41 wholly in the sense of the definitions of Chalcedon, and certainly not as mingled with each other or changed into each other.42 In order to do this assumption justice, Luther over and over again in his texts highlights that the community brought about by God’s love is distinguished by the exchange of the respective nature-specific properties. This sharing of characteristics is pertinent and evident particularly in the death on the Cross and the resurrection, the defining events in the fulfillment of Christ’s life. Just as the Creator’s power is Christ’s own as he lay in the manger,43 so it should and must be accepted that God died in the crucified Christ.44
Christ is God and man in one Person, that is why what is said of him as man, one must also say of God, Namely, Christ has died, And Christ is God, that is why God has died, Not the disconnected God, but the God united with humanity.45
God, insofar as He is not incarnate,46 has not died on the Cross, but the God united with “humanity” in Christ, because only this God, in the person of the Incarnate God as Christ’s personal unity, has a share in the human properties of mortality and capacity for suffering.47
With his explications on the exchange of properties, Luther makes it clear that God’s love also does not shrink from weakness, misery, and death in order to be close to and in fellowship with humankind. The idea of the exchange of properties is in any case faced with philosophical challenges. A simultaneity of mutually contradictory properties (mortality and eternality, for example) is supposed to be assumed in one person. In this, Christ’s true humanity on the one hand, and on the other his true divinity, does not seem to be taken seriously, even if on the one hand the true human being is also conceived as eternal and almighty, and on the other the true God is conceived as suffering and spatially contingent.48 But Luther maintains that the divine property of eternity, in which the Incarnate has a share, is not only effective beyond his death, and to be sure insofar as the Crucified rises again to eternal life and as resurrected appears anew in space and time. God’s Incarnation is also already predestined from eternity.49 Luther correspondingly characterizes the preexisting, predestined, incarnate God as almighty Creator of the heaven and the earth, who is born from the Virgin Mary at a definite time.50
Just as Christ is eternal, so he is also omnipresent. Luther does distinguish the spatially related present of the Incarnate from that of the “disconnected” God51 while nonetheless underlining the omnipresence of Christ, especially in the controversy on the correct understanding of the Eucharist.52
If sharing of the divine property of omniscience is predicated of the Incarnate God, it would thus arguably have to be assumed that the Incarnate knew not only about his own almighty divinity but in addition faced his own death on the Cross just as consciously as his resurrection. Then, however, it may be asked whether the Incarnate God, to whom the meaning and aim of his life and suffering would therefore have been known, did in fact live on earth as a true human being and truly suffer under sin on the Cross. That is to say, how should he, as an omniscient being, have suffered on the Cross, supposedly experiencing despair and desertion by God?
Cross and Resurrection
God himself, according to Luther, died on the Cross in the person of the Incarnate for the sake of sin. “Since although God in his nature does not suffer or die, yet because God has become man … so it is rightly called God’s death and blood when the man who is one Person with God dies.”53
The Incarnate God, in whom God and man are united in an unbreakable relationship of love, has without sin suffered death on the Cross on account of sin. According to Luther, sinlessness is namely given when the fulfillment of a human being’s life is founded in complete trust on God alone.54 This is exactly what was always the case for Christ unconditionally. Neither in the Garden of Gethsemane nor on the Cross, when he—according to the tradition of the Evangelists Matthew and Mark (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)—cried, in the words of Psalm 22, verse 2, “my God, why have you forsaken me?,”55 was he in fact without God and in a state of sin. As true man, the Incarnate God undeniably suffered mortal agony in the face of his impending death,56 but this agony is, like the quotation from Psalm 22, just as scant an indication that Christ himself was sinful and did not want to submit to God’s will. Rather, the Incarnate God willingly took the suffering of the Cross upon himself out of love for the Father.57 “Christ therefore loved the Father with all his strength, but was crucified for it, because they were beyond his strength, they compelled an innocent and weak nature to groan, cry, be appalled, and flee, just as if you load a wooden beam beyond its strength, it creaks not by any fault of its own but because its nature must do so.”58
Although Christ on the Cross was himself without sin, according to Luther he had indeed been painfully sensitive to the godlessness of sinful humanity in order to reveal God’s sympathy with the individual who imagines himself forsaken by God.59 For the sake of humankind, he has not only taken the sins of humankind upon himself60 and suffered the pangs of conscience at the recognition of sin,61 he has even—a statement of Paul’s (2 Cor. 5:21) that Luther repeatedly quotes—become sin himself.62 Luther maintains that “Christ has become sin for us, which when God was abandoning him who was without sin, he became in all things like the last sinner, except that God’s wrath was not rushing upon his conscience and urging him to despair.”63 In a metaphorical sense (metaphorice), Christ has become sin.64 A metaphor is distinguished, according to Luther, by its linguistic combining of two “objects” in a way that, in a specific context, characterizes and emphasizes one particular essential aspect of an object’s constitution by means of the other.65 Under no circumstances could Christ be identified with sin; under no circumstances is he united with sin into a personal union. Rather, the metaphorical characterization of Christ as sin gives expression to the fact that Christ on the Cross suffered under the sin of humankind as much as if he himself were unavoidably united with sin. The pain of sin which Christ has correspondingly suffered is the sense of complete abandonment by God. This feeling of abandonment is, according to Luther, given expression by the cry “my God, why have you forsaken me?” In order to understand this exclamation rightly, that the Crucified knew that he still continued to be joined with God, as the invocation “my God” clearly shows, must be borne in mind.
As can be established for the Crucified, that in his suffering he may feel forsaken by God whereas God as Creator is connected with his creature without diminution, so may every human being count on God’s assistance and support even in situations in life that are experienced as forsaken by God. Christ’s Cross gives expression to this redeeming assent to God’s help and to a clear rejection of supposed abandonment by God in time of need, according to Luther. “For unless he were near, [Christ] would not say ‘my God.’ Unless he were far away, he would not say ‘you have forsaken me.’ And so we are far from salvation while we are suffering, but he is near so that he may help, because what for us is impossible and hopeless, for Him is possible and easy, that all distance is from the side of our suffering weakness, that is, forsaken infirmity, which is none other than the very sense of torments.”66
The Crucified, according to Luther, represents not only sin, whose painful suffering compelled him to his cry of abandonment by God. In showing human beings the suffering that is caused by their sins and therefore enables the recognition of sin for them, for whose sake he suffers, he thereby at the same time reveals God’s unbounded love, which for the sake of creatures does not shrink even from sin and death. The Incarnate God takes the suffering of the Cross upon himself, according to Luther, in order to show that God is near even in an alleged state of godlessness and extreme misery because He wants fellowship with human beings, because He wants their salvation and life, and to this end has overcome sin and death.67
This recognition is, according to Luther, indivisibly bound up with the insight into Christ’s resurrection, since with the resurrection it becomes clear that Christ has become sin in order to overcome the sins of humankind; “they are swallowed up by his resurrection.”68
Therefore St. Paul says that Christ has died for the sake of our sin and risen again for the sake of our justification, that is, in his sufferings he makes our sin known and so strangles it, but through his resurrection he makes us justified and free from all sins, so we otherwise believe the same.69
That the Crucified has died and risen again for his salvation is, according to Luther, known to that person who, through his trust in Christ, redeems himself from sin and knows he has shifted into fellowship with God.
To a nonbeliever, the resurrection of Christ is not to be proven by human speech, biblical testimony, or Christian preaching.70 Only in faith does a human being recognize God’s will to salvation and life. In addition, that a person could come to faith requires preaching and sacraments, according to Luther. But it was only with the operation of the Holy Spirit that the truth of the resurrection of the Incarnate God and the Incarnation of the Risen Christ developed. For the “teaching” of God’s becoming man, who as the Risen Christ encounters the believer, “has come from no reason, but from the Holy Spirit, which is why it also remains unapprehended by reason without the Holy Spirit.”71
Through the Holy Spirit’s activity of revelation, according to Luther, the Risen Christ is made present and it thus becomes evident that in the proclaimed Christ the Omnipresent has himself become man to redeem humankind. It is the Spirit-mediated “encounter” with the Risen Christ, who after his death on the Cross, because he is God, can appear anew in space and time, which makes it clear that in Christ God has become human. In the certainty of God’s Incarnation, according to Luther, the believer adheres to the Incarnate Christ, who takes him/her with him out of the death of sin into eternal life.72
Preaching and Sacraments
Just as the incarnate God, preaching and sacraments must themselves become a subject of discussion when the Incarnation is being treated and the significance of God’s becoming man is supposed to become clear. But these two means (preaching and sacraments) which serve to make God’s Incarnation recognizable are effective for salvation only when God’s intention for fellowship is itself experienced as mediated through them.
The Proclamation of the Incarnate God through Language
According to Luther, a human being only attains faith when the Spirit of God reveals the factual content (res) and thereby the truth of the proclaimed Gospel. The revelatory operation of the Spirit is bonded to the Annunciation of God’s Incarnation in Christ. “For God has decided that no one should and can believe nor receive the Holy Spirit without the Gospel, so it is preached or taught by word of mouth.”73
According to Luther, the preaching of the Biblically canonized and transmitted message of God’s Incarnation is necessary for the faith-effecting reception of the Holy Spirit. By no means, however, does the reading of the text of the Bible or even the preached representation of God’s bestowal of salvation bring about faith as such, since neither through the text of the Bible nor by preaching alone is a human being’s heart reached and moved. “I can with the word come no further, since into the ears, into the heart I cannot come. Because faith cannot be poured into the heart, so neither can nor should anyone be compelled to it, since God alone does such a thing and makes the Word alive in the hearts of men, when and where he wills according to his divine knowledge and pleasure.”74
According to His will, God operates in the heart75 of a human being and, there in that person’s inmost parts, on the ground of awareness on which the fulfillment of a person’s life is based, brings himself close to humankind. God the Spirit operates in the heart of a human being and thus lets that person experience God’s intention of community, which is made known to him through the proclamation of the incarnate God, as true and effective for salvation. The work of the Spirit reveals God’s Incarnation and its significance by freeing a human being for fellowship with Christ.76
Luther’s conviction that faith, though only conveyed through human annunciation, is nonetheless brought about only through God himself, rules out understanding the word of Scripture as identical with the incarnate Word of God. In no event has God become Scripture and even “incarnate” in the Bible. According to Luther, what Holy Scripture talks about is the incarnate Word of God; it is the substance of the Gospel and as such unattainably distinct from the wording.77 “God and God’s Scripture are two separate things, no less than Creator and creature of God are two separate things.”78 In his Scriptural hermeneutics, Luther distinguishes the wording of the Bible from its substance, which only becomes evident when the Spirit causes the proclaimed Christ to be recognized as incarnate Word of God.79
The Sacramental Presence of the Incarnate God
In contrast to his teaching regarding the Scriptures, Luther holds that the incarnate God is present in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist not only by their subject, but also in reality.
The omnipresent incarnate God is, according to Luther, united with the bread and wine of the Eucharist. This can be conceived of in the mode of the “communication of properties” (communicatio idiomatum); the divine characteristic of omnipresence guarantees the corporeal presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist. Their characterization as Christ’s body and blood is in no event to be understood metaphorically; in contrast to the statement that Christ was made sin, the utterance “this is my Body,” as well as the statement “the Word became flesh,” is not meant in a figurative sense. Just as a synecdochical-personal unity of man and God exists in the Person of Christ, so in the Eucharistic elements is a synecdochical-sacramental unity of body and bread, blood and wine.
Luther characterizes a unity of two objects in which neither object’s nature is nullified to the advantage of the other as synecdochical.80 Whoever consumes the bread of the Eucharist is at the same time savoring the bread that can be tasted as well as the truly present Body of Christ. That is to say, Christ is in the sacrament, “there [where] bread and wine is, and yet bread and wine for their own part remain untransformed and unchanged.”81
In synecdochical unity, according to Luther, the characteristics of the unified objects remain preserved; the objects are present in this unity unmingled and untransformed. Nevertheless, they are bonded into an indivisible unity.82 In the Eucharist, according to Luther, bread and body, wine and blood are united in a sacramental unity just as God and man are united in a personal unity, namely one person. Correspondingly, in the elements of the Eucharist, it is a matter of “Eucharistic bread” and “Eucharistic wine,” and thereby of sacramental foods. According to Luther, the bread which in the Eucharist is consecrated with the words of institution83 becomes “no longer simply bread from the baker’s oven, but bread of flesh or corporeal bread, which is a bread, so with the body of Christ it has become a sacramental being and a thing,” and just as the wine is “no longer simply wine in the cellar, but blood-wine, that is, a wine which has entered into one sacramental being with the blood of Christ.”84
With the elements of the Eucharist, the believer therefore takes both bread and wine and the incarnate God into him/herself, and indeed in the sacramental unity of body and bread, blood and wine. According to Luther, the God incarnate in Christ unites with the flesh of the believer at the consumption of the Eucharistic elements; Christ is made flesh in the believer.85 “When the sacrament is eaten, we incorporate Christ in us and he incorporates himself in us.”86
Luther’s Eucharistic theology takes the corporeal nature of humankind with particular seriousness. In a corporeal way, the risen Christ appears at the celebration of the Eucharist and is taken up bodily by the person who consumes him.87 Through this incorporation, according to Luther, comes about the corporeal communion of the believer with God, which connects the individual to the Eucharistic community. He/she is united with Christ and is thereby at the same time also a member of the community of believers, which Luther, adopting the Pauline expression, is characterized as Christ’s spiritual body.88
In the Eucharist as in Baptism, according to Luther, the baptized person, like the Eucharistic communicant, is united with Christ, the risen incarnate God and so taken up into his life’s fulfillment. With Christ, according to Luther, the baptized person, like the Eucharistic communicant, overcomes the death of sin which Christ suffered on the Cross and from which he rose again, for the believer shares in Christ’s death and resurrection by being united with him through participation in Baptism and the Eucharist. In the corporeal union with Christ in the Eucharist, he/she experiences his/her bodily surrender to the Cross and the truth of the resurrection, on the basis of which the incarnate God can become present anew in space and time and also indeed be present in the sacrament.
The baptized person’s corporeal union with Christ occurs, according to Luther, by the incorporation of the person into the life’s fulfillment of the incarnate God in the baptismal act. The baptized person is united with the incarnate God who through death entered into eternal life. For baptism, in which the individual being baptized is raised up from the baptismal water and thus “emerges” from death into eternal life, which he begins in faith (which according to Luther unassailably lets the saving significance of the sacraments take effect) symbolizes just this way through the death of sin to fellowship with God.89 “Baptism signifies two things: death and resurrection. This means full and consummate justification. For the minister plunging the child into the water signifies death, but his drawing him back out again signifies life.”90
What the act of baptism shows, Luther describes as genuinely effective in the experience of the believer. The person who in faith becomes aware of his baptized state and in the return to baptism (reditus ad baptismum)91 recalls the act of baptism experiences how he, in communion with the incarnate God, has died and risen in the sacrament of baptism (“he dies together and rises together”).92
In the Eucharist, the Omnipresent appears in a spatially present way in order to be close to the believer and to make him certain of his fellowship with God. In baptism, in contrast, the baptized person has a share in the eternity of the incarnate God, who (in the manner of the communication of properties [communicatio idiomatum]) becomes present in time in order to take the baptized person with Him into eternal life. Through the sacraments, the incarnate God takes a human being up into God’s community by becoming an intimate part of the communicant through the elements of the Eucharist and through the water of baptism bringing the baptized person along into his life’s fulfillment.
This significance for salvation that the sacraments possess is, according to Luther, known only to the believer.93 But faith, as already shown, is brought about through the Holy Spirit by means of the proclamation of the Gospel. The Holy Ghost causes a person to recognize the Crucified as the incarnate God and consequently then also to know that he/she also belongs to the community of the Christian faithful. Through the community of Christian men and women (the Church) is God’s saving will, which finds expression in his Incarnation, in turn further proclaimed.
The Christian Person and the Christian Community
The Christian Person
Only in faith, according to Luther, does a person live in community with the incarnate God, whom he/she incorporates in the Eucharist and whose path in life he/she follows through death to eternal life.94 But how is the redeeming unity and community of life between Christ and a human being to be properly understood, according to Luther?
The Community of Faith
(a) First, according to Luther, it could be assumed that the believer is joined with the incarnate God in the manner in which God and man are joined with each other in Christ. In the manner of communication of properties (communicatio idiomatum), an exchange of Christ’s characteristics with those of a specific Christian person could be envisioned. In addition, it would have to be assumed that the two persons—Christ and the Christian person—are united into one person. But is this idea conceivable and consonant with Luther’s meaning?
The redeeming action of God is described by Luther as a human being’s liberation from the ruin which affects him throughout the entire course of his life on account of sin:
That you might be able to come out of yourself and by yourself, that is, out of your ruin, so He [i.e. God] for you sets his dear son Jesus Christ and lets it be said to you through his living Word of comfort: you should give yourself over to the same with firm faith, and freshly trust in him. So for the sake of the same faith all your sins shall be forgiven, all your ruin be overcome, and you shall be righteous, true, pacified, pious, and all commandments will be fulfilled, you will be free of all things.95
When a human being trusts in Christ, according to Luther, he is redeemed “out of his ruin” by being liberated from the sinful determinacy of his identity. For Luther, redemption does not mean that an individual loses his identity, for should he be cut off not only from his ruinous definiteness, but also from his own person, the redemptive event would not exactly lead him into eternal life in fellowship with Christ.96 But Luther did reach this community with Christ in faith. It is a human being’s faith in which the bond exists between this person, or rather this person’s soul, and Christ.
Not only does faith give so much that the soul becomes equal to the divine Word, full of all grace, free and blessed, but also unites the soul with Christ as a wife with her husband. Out of which marriage follows, as St. Paul says that Christ and the soul become one flesh, so also will both have everything in common in prosperity and misfortune, so that whatever Christ has, that is the faithful soul’s own, and whatever the soul has, becomes Christ’s own. Thus, Christ has all goods and blessedness which are the soul’s own. So if the soul has all vice and sin upon her, they become Christ’s own. Here lifts the happy exchange and conflict.97
According to Luther, faith is the connecting link between Christ and the soul and is consequently also characterized as the soul’s “wedding ring.”98 The believer experiences being with Christ in a fellowship which Luther compares with marriage because of its intimate closeness. In this fellowship it is not an exchange of properties that occurs, but one of sin and blessedness. Christ, by taking a human being’s sins upon himself and therefore freeing the believer from his sinful corruption, makes his own beatitude and righteousness this person’s own.99
This “conjugal sharing” (communicatio conubialis) shows marked differences compared to the communication of properties in Christ, who unites divine and human natures in one person. Though Luther’s image of the (conjugal) community of the believer with Christ does depict the one and the other as having become one “flesh,”100 the persons in this unity of flesh, unlike the two natures of Christ, do not appear to be joined in a (new) personal unity.
According to Luther, the natures of Christ, joined together in a synecdochical-personal unity, communicate their properties reciprocally. Among his human properties, however, Luther expressly does not count sin.101 Accordingly, sin and blessedness are not exchanged for each other in Christ. Rather, the incarnate God takes the human being’s sin upon himself to an extent that he could be said to have himself become sin. And this statement, according to Luther, is to be understood metaphorically.102
The assumption of sin by Christ, unlike the assumption of divine characteristics by his human nature and of human characteristics by his divine nature, is therefore understood as an assumption in a figurative sense. And the believer’s unity with Christ, which is described as a fleshly union in which sin and blessedness are exchanged, is accordingly also different from the personal unity of Christ’s two natures. But how then is the union of the person of the believer with the person of Christ appropriately envisioned, according to Luther?
(b) The union could be considered more narrowly, and an ontological change could be posited for the believing person in unity with the incarnate God through which he/she obtains a new identity in Christ.103 The union, however, could be conceptualized further. A relationship between two independent persons could be imagined, who are joined with each other in the most intimate fashion, but whose unity signifies not only not the loss of the believing creature’s identity, but rather the particular recognition of his/her identity. Luther appears to represent the first alternative when he writes, “But indeed, rightly is the faith to be taught, that through it you cement yourself to Christ in such a way that from you and him one person is made, as it were, which cannot be separated but everlastingly holds fast to him.”104 Luther maintains that Christ and a human being would be united in faith, as if in one person, and continues with a further simile: “and he might say, I am as Christ, and Christ in his turn might say, I am as that sinner who holds fast to me, and I to him, for we are joined together by faith into one flesh.”105
To describe the unity of human being and Christ in faith (union with Christ [unio cum Christo]), Luther makes use of the images of corporeal union in which the believer appears to fuse with Christ in such a way that he appears to assume his identity.106 But Luther even remarks expressly that he by no means understands these images as ontological statements, but just as images, metaphors, and similes: through unity in faith, the believer becomes as (ut) Christ. Luther’s description, that a human being in faith becomes like Christ or turns into Christ, resembles the discourse that Christ has become sin, which Luther understands as a metaphor. Accordingly, the formulated identification of the believer with Christ is not a statement about a change in this human being’s essence, whose identity continues to exist just as does the identity of Christ, of whom it is said that he was made sin.
With his formulations, Luther does not express any change of an individual’s being, but a change in his soul, or rather in his consciousness, in which this person has the experience of being together with Christ. A believer has the experience of being united with Christ in faith in the incarnate God, and so he/she experiences God’s love, which is granted to him/her in and through Christ.
Conscious of the salvation in Christ granted by God, the believer therefore experiences his/her own life as new and whole. Through fellowship with Christ, his/her previous life and own self are not done away with or replaced in any way. Rather, all of life is now seen in faith in Christ and accordingly the believer’s life as that of a believer is distinguished from his/her mere physical existence: “Life is … twofold: my natural or animal life, and another’s, namely Christ’s within me.”107
The Pauline formulation, that Christ is present “in me,”108 refers to the spiritual life of the believer, to that person’s awareness of him-/herself, according to Luther; within him-/herself, the believer is certain of God’s gift of salvation in Christ. According to Luther, no synecdochical-personal unity with Christ exists for the believer, nor does any transformation of identity befall him; rather, he lives and has the experience of himself being in a community of faith with the incarnate God.109 It is faith, so Luther, which unites a person’s soul and with it his/her self-awareness with Christ.110 In faith, or rather with trust in Christ, a sense of unity with Christ is experienced that relates to a human being’s spiritual life and self-awareness; in this unity, the believer has the experience of being appreciated and loved by God as created by Him. The certainty that God created him for the purpose of bringing him to himself through Christ because He loves him,111 determines the believer’s “new” life from then on, that he now loves God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself.
The Community of Love
The fulfilment of a believer’s life is determined by his community of love, according to Luther. The shaping of the believer’s life is conditioned and moved by the love which approaches him in Christ and in which he lovingly trusts. Because God treats him in love, the Christian believer becomes active in the world around him in love.112
The believer in Christ is, according to Luther, a person who for the sake of faith no longer lives in self-involvement but rather is devoted to his neighbor in love. Through faith and in faith, a Christian person is at the same time united with God and with neighbor:
A Christian person lives not in himself, but in Christ and his neighbor, in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love; through faith he journeys beyond himself into God, from God he journeys back to himself through love, and yet remains always in God and divine love.113
In the love of God lives, according to Luther, a person, who believes that God has become man in Christ to save creation. Trust in God’s liberating acts of salvation move the believer to be close to his neighbor in love.
Faith in Christ, that is to say a person’s awareness of being redeemed by Christ because God himself has turned to him bodily in Christ, strives, according to Luther, to become “flesh” in material acts of love. This is why the believer does not go about idly, instead giving expression to his loving relationship with God in works of love:
faith perpetually justifies and makes alive, and yet does not remain alone, that is, idle. Not that it should remain not alone in its degree and function, because it perpetually alone justifies, but it takes on flesh and becomes human, this is to say, it is not and does not remain idle or without charity.114
According to Luther, the proclamation of God’s love which is accomplished in the Christian community is a fundamental part of the service of love for one’s neighbor.
Now we have received pure love and benefaction from God, for is that not a great unutterable love, that he has sent down his only-begotten son from heaven and cast him into flesh, upon which he saved and redeemed us from sin, death, devil, and hell? … Is that not a great superabundant love, since God lets us proclaim and distribute such a treasure in his word … ?115
The Christian Community
Luther, following Paul,116 characterizes the community of Christian people, the Church, as Christ’s Body, as his spiritual body.117 This formulation as well, which belongs to the same semantic field as “Incarnation,” is to be understood figuratively. Just as the Word of God is incarnate in Christ, not in the biblical Scriptures that testify to him,118 so Christian people are joined in faith with Christ and with one another as Christ’s faithful, but the incarnate God is not present as the community of believers which proclaims him. Rather, this community is Christ’s body because it is founded on God’s bestowal of salvation in the Incarnate Logos and thereby in God’s Gospel, into which the Spirit of God grants insight. It is therefore brought about by God’s Word itself.119 Accordingly, it is empowered to proclaim the Incarnate God and to celebrate his sacramental presence. On the other hand, the Church is Christ’s Body because it is assembled from members who are born again, mediated by their proclamation as believers in Christ. If in it, just as in the Virgin Mary, God’s Spirit is acting powerfully, it is the body through which human beings are (re-)born to faith in Christ. Luther correspondingly also characterizes the Church as mother.120 Moved by God’s love, which forms the foundation for the rebirth of Christ’s faithful, these people celebrate Baptism and the Eucharist and proclaim God’s Incarnation.121
The Incarnation, according to Luther, is the manifestation of God’s love through which God reveals to human beings what His love means. The union and unity of God and man in Christ brings God’s intention for community into view. His action relative to human creatures aims to release them from their godlessness into community with Him. The content of His love is the striving to build up a relationship with His creatures in which they know themselves to be loved by Him and for that reason love Him wholeheartedly in return as the Creator of all creatures.
This content is revealed in the incarnate God and the fulfillment of His life. The figure of the exchange of properties, according to Luther, makes it possible to think about and to describe the love of God that is present and effective in Christ. It enables the extent of God’s love, which shunned neither Cross nor manger in order to be close to human creatures in Jesus Christ, to be portrayed. This most intimate closeness is, according to Luther, made present through the sacraments. The sacraments allow the believer to experience the community of love between God and humankind in Christ as a community of love in which the believer himself is raised up by his union with Christ.
God’s proof of love in the Incarnate Christ is, according to Luther, evident in the action of God’s Spirit, which touches each person and which frees him/her from sin for community of love with God. The awareness of being loved by God which is brought about by the Holy Spirit, according to Luther, presupposes the proclamation of the resurrected incarnate God.
Review of the Literature
The topic of the Incarnation in Martin Luther’s theology concerns numerous dogmatic topoi which are interpreted in a variety of ways in the secondary literature. A crucial question concerns the meaning of the Incarnation for believers. It is the question of how the union of a believer with Christ (unio cum Christo) is understood by Luther. In the text above, various positions on this issue are discussed and identified in the corresponding notes (see section “The Community of Faith”).
A further interpretative challenge is represented by Luther’s use of the figure of speech of the communication of properties. The presumption that the figure of the communication of properties (communicatio idiomatum) is of crucial significance, including for Luther’s theology as a whole, in fact, appears frequently in works on Martin Luther’s Christology.122 Luther’s explanatory remarks on the communication of properties relate fundamentally to the incarnate God’s being and action. For this reason, in view of Luther’s understanding of the Incarnation, deeper investigation of his discourse on the communication of properties is of particular interest.
The matter to which Luther’s description of the unity of divine and human natures in Christ by the mode of an interchange of the properties specific to their respective natures wants to give expression is, in my opinion, God’s care for humankind, which is founded in God’s love. God’s love is, according to Luther, to be understood as pursuit of community which strives to receive human creatures into an eternal community of love. To this end, the passibility, mortality, and other human properties that are frighteningly experienced in a state of sin are accepted by God in Christ for the goal of ultimately overcoming sin, fear, and death. The resurrection of the incarnate God makes it evident that even sin and death mean no rupture in the relationship between God and man. Rather, in His love, the Creator remains inseparable from His creature.
In order to demonstrate the soteriological significance of Christ’s Incarnation, death on the Cross, and resurrection, Luther employs the figure of speech of the communication of properties (communicatio idiomatum), which also determines the real presence of the Redeemer in the Sacraments. For the sake of this soteriological significance, in my opinion, research on Luther is required, completely in his spirit, to articulate the meaning and substance of his explanatory comments still further.123 What matters is to show the saving operation of God, which according to Luther has been made manifest with God’s Incarnation, as the most intimate event in the relationship between God and human beings for the salvation of humankind.
A third point that requires consideration is the assumption that Luther, with his understanding of the Incarnation as God’s becoming a human being, did not pay sufficient attention to the Creator’s care for all His creatures. This proposition is discussed under the heading of “deep Incarnation.”124 Further development of Luther’s theological thought is being undertaken, and in the process an answer sought to the demands of contemporary ecology. Propositions that have met with a manifold reception are found above all in the publications of Niels Henrik Gregersen.125 He interprets the becoming-flesh of the Logos referred to in John 1:14 as the indwelling of God in his entire creation: “By becoming ‛flesh’ in Jesus, God’s eternal logos entered into all dimensions of God’s world of creation.”126 According to Gregersen, the Word of God did become man in Christ, but at the same time this means that God has entered his entire creation, into plants as well as animals, and thus accepted them.127 This is necessary so that the creation as a whole can find redemption, since in accord with Gregory of Nazianzen, Gregersen holds that only what God has accepted can be redeemed. This insight is also shared by Luther,128 which is why he insists that Christ is true man, with body and soul.129 As a result of Christ’s being true God and true man with body and soul, the human soul is redeemed from sin to community with God.
According to Gregersen, Luther is very much committed to the relationship of human and divine natures. But in the relationship between human and nonhuman, plant or animal nature, Luther does not show the theological interest that is urgently needed nowadays.130
In this focus on the human being, when the discourse is about God’s Incarnation, contemporary theologians surmise an anthropocentrism which in environmental ethics plans is presented as a cause of the way humans have plundered the world we share. It is argued that the assumption that God became man (only) for the salvation of humankind conditions a way of treating the environment in which the latter is irresponsibly made subject to humankind.131 This proposition is in my opinion pertinent if God’s becoming man is misunderstood, namely as a special distinction of humankind above all other creatures. Rather, it must be understood as God’s special treatment of humankind for the benefit of His entire creation. According to Luther, the Creator’s profession of love for His creation, which He made through the Logos, is communicated in a special way by the eternally predestined Incarnation for humankind.132 This is necessary because humankind lives in sin. Humans consequently need redemption from sin through the Redeemer, who became man for this purpose. That all creatures had need of such a redemption could only be supposed if they were all presumed to be sinful. If this possibility is ruled out,133 it is therefore still not denied that they are exposed to pain and suffering (cf. Romans 8:19), conditions which in our times are determined by humans to a remarkable extent, and increasingly so. Liberation from these sufferings is, following Luther’s theology, the task of humankind and the concern of each and every person who has been redeemed from his/her sin to a relationship with the loving Creator, for the believer knows that he is responsible for his neighbor before the Creator and encounters him with works of love.134
What Luther’s theology does admittedly lack and is urgently called for in view of the environment, is a broadening of the anthropocentric definition of neighbor not only to subsequent generations, but also to plants, animals, and all the earth.135 It is then that the creation-wide significance of God’s Incarnation for salvation comes into sight, and the Creator’s special gift of salvation can lead to salvation for the entire created world. To this end, the believer, like the community of believers, should cooperate with the incarnate Creator and so live in responsibility toward all the creatures which God made out of love.
Arnold, Matthieu, “Luther On Christ’s Person and Work,” In The Oxford Handbook Of Martin Luther’s Theology. Edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, 274–293. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:
Bayer, Oswald, and Benjamin Gleede, eds., Creator est Creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007.Find this resource:
Beutel, Albrecht, ed., Luther Handbuch. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.Find this resource:
Beutel, Albrecht, In dem Anfang war das Wort: Studien zu Luthers Sprachverständnis. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006.Find this resource:
Käfer, Anne. Inkarnation und Schöpfung: Schöpfungstheologische Voraussetzungen und Implikationen der Christologie bei Luther, Schleiermacher und Karl Barth. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010.Find this resource:
(1.) On Luther’s description of the essence of God as love, see Martin Luther, Siebte Invokavitpredigt, WA 10/III, 56,2/3: “God is a glowing oven full of love, who extends from the earth to the heaven.”
(2.) Luther, Siebte Invokavitpredigt, WA 10/III, 55,26–30.
(3.) According to Luther, God has come into the flesh and thereby truly became man, namely a human being of flesh and blood. The phrase “in the flesh” (in carne) must absolutely be distinguished from the formulation “to live according to the flesh,” which characterizes a sinful existence. For this, see Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 310,25–26: “‘In the flesh’ and ‘according to the flesh’ are remote from each other. Paul (Gal. 2) lives in the flesh, but surely not according to the flesh, but rather in the faith of Christ.” On Luther’s understanding of the fact that God has become flesh, see also Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 632,21ff.*
(4.) See John 1:14.
(5.) See Luke 1:26ff.* and Galatians 4:4.
(6.) See “Decretum Chalcedonensis Concilii,” in Die Bekenntnisschriften der Evangelisch Lutherischen Kirche, ed. Irene Dingel et al. (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014), 1612/1613; Luther, Die Disputation de divinitate et humanitate Christi, WA 39/II, 93,2/3, 1. Thesis: “This is the Catholic faith, that we confess Christ is one Lord, very God and very man” (Fides catholica haec est, ut unum dominum Christum confiteamur verum Deum et hominem).
(7.) See Luther, Von den Konziliis und Kirchen, WA 50, 595,36–596,10, and section “Eucharist” on Luther’s understanding of the Eucharist.
(8.) On his understanding of the Persons of God, see Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 550,8ff.*
(9.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 541,9.
(10.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 550,12; Luther himself refers to the Nicene Creed at 557,39ff.*; see also Luther, Die drei Symbola oder Bekenntnis des Glaubens Christi, WA 50, 282,35.
(11.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 541,11.
(12.) Luther, Das XVI. Kapitel S. Johannis, WA 46, 60,4–6: “Just as the Father is an eternal speaker, the Son is spoken in eternity, so the Holy Spirit is from eternity the listener.”
(13.) See Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 543,34–36, and 544,3–9: “As now a man has a word, conversation, or thought with himself, he speaks unceasingly with himself, is full of words and deliberations, what he wants to do or allow,” so “in eternity too, God had in his majesty and divine being a word, speech, conversation, or thought with himself in his divine heart … that is, his Word, which from eternity in his Fatherly heart inwardly dwelt, by which GOD has decided to create heaven and earth. But of such a will of GOD, no man has ever known, until the same Word becomes flesh, and announces it to us.”
(14.) On this, see Luther, Vorlesungen über die Genesis, WA 42, 14,6–7: “Therefore in the beginning and before every creature is the Word, and he is a Word so powerful that he makes all things from nothing” (Ergo in principio et ante omnem creaturam est verbum, et est tam potens verbum, quod ex nihilo facit omnia.).
(15.) Christ’s human nature was also created by the Triune God: Luther, Von den letzten Worten Davids, WA 54, 60,1–5: “Just like him is to speak of the humanity of Christ, which is in itself a proper creature, made together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And in the faith it is not to be tolerated, that the Father alone, or the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone has made this creature or humanity, but it is a undivided work of the Trinity” (Opus indivisum trinitatis).
(16.) Luther, Von den letzten Worten Davids, WA 54, 60,12–20: “The entire Trinity as a single Creator is here, and the single work, the humanity [sc. of Christ], has created and made, and indeed the Person of the Son alone thereby unites and became man, not the Father or the Holy Spirit, And you cannot say of this man, that is God the Father, or that is God the Holy Spirit, But must say, that is God the Son, although God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a single God, That you quite rightly say of the man, that is God and none apart from Him.”
(17.) Luther, Die Disputation de divinitate et humanitate Christi, WA 39/II, v.a. 94,5/6, These 14.
(18.) On the definition of the eternal nature of God’s Word through whom the world was made, see Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 557,33–39.
(19.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 547,39.
(20.) See note 13 above.
(21.) Luther’s understanding of God’s omnipresence: Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 327–329.
(22.) Luther, De servo arbitrio, WA 18, 685,1–29. See also Luther, Predigt vom 21.11.1537, WA 45, 281,28–37: “The unseen God and the unseen rule of God the Christians leave unexamined. For since God has not revealed himself, what He thinks and has in mind, or has decided by himself from eternity what He wants to make and do … Likewise, when this or that change should have occurred in the world. Likewise, at what time and hour the Last Day will come. Such a thing God has revealed to no one, nor let know.”
(23.) Luther, De servo arbitrio, WA 18, 784/785; Anne Käfer, Inkarnation und Schöpfung: Schöpfungstheologische Voraussetzungen und Implikationen der Christologie bei Luther, Schleiermacher und Karl Barth, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010), 37–39. See also Eberhard Jüngel, “Quae supra nos, nihil ad nos. Eine Kurzformel der Lehre vom verborgenen Gott—im Anschluß an Luther interpretiert,” in Entsprechungen: Gott—Wahrheit—Mensch: Theologische Erörterungen, ed. Eberhard Jüngel (Munich: Kaiser, 1986), 202–251.
(24.) See, inter alia, Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 548,29; 553,7; 568,17.
(25.) See Luther, Predigt vom 24.3.1532, WA 36, 143,2: “Thus was it announced from the beginning of the world” (Sic annunciatum a mundi principio.).
(26.) On his understanding of God’s all-powerful predestination, see Luther, De servo arbitrio, WA 18, 719,24–30: “First, that God is omnipotent, not only in capacity, but also in action (as I have said), otherwise God would be laughable. Then, that He knows all things, and in advance, and that He can neither err nor be deceived. Once these two things have been accepted by the hearts and minds of all, they are soon compelled to admit by unavoidable consequence that ‘We are not made by our own will, but by necessity; Thus, that we do not do anything by right of free will, but as God has foreknown and leads us by His counsel and infallible and unchanging power.’”
(27.) Luther, Der Große Katechismus, Zum dritten Artikel, WA 30/I, 191,35–192,3.
(28.) Here Luther frames a talk of God with himself: “I [i.e., God] do not want to maintain my ordinance for the creature here, nevertheless nearly the half, that a virgin a son … According to reason, it is foolish.” But “he who has bestowed reason will know something more, who has created reason can know something better than I.” (“ [M]ein ordnung der creatur wil ich [d.i. Gott] hie nicht halten, tamen schier die helfft, ut virgo filium. […] Secundum rationem ists nerrisch.” Doch, „qui dedit rationem, der wird etwas mher wissen, qui rationem creavit, kan etwas bessers wissen quam ego”): Luther, Predigt vom 24.3.1532, WA 36, 141,1–6.
(29.) Luther, Predigt vom 24.3.1532, WA 36, 142,19–143,1: “the Holy Spirit acted together with her and has her fecund at the time when she said, ‘Behold the handmaiden.’” (spiritus sanctus cooperavit und hat sie fruchtbar in illa hora, qua dixit: ‚Ecce ancilla’). See also Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 556,2–6.
(30.) Luther, Festpostille 1527. Evangelium am Tage der Verkündigung Mariä, WA 17/II, 401,9–18.
(31.) Luther, Predigt vom 16./17.4.(?)1533, WA 37, 54,26–31.
(32.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 501,24–26, maintains “that God the Son assumed not only the body without soul (as some heretics teach) but also the soul, that is, a complete full humanity.” On Christ’s emotional suffering, see Section “Cross and Resurrection.”
(33.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 626,25–29 and 598,38/39, maintains “that there was no difference between HIM [i.e., Christ] and other men, that he was GOD too and had no sin.”
(34.) On God’s creation of a sinless, good mankind, see Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi, Bekenntnis, WA 26, 351,30–36: “Since we know that all creatures of God are good (Genesis 1) and God does not condemn his creatures, In such a way is Christ of course flesh and blood, from Mary come flesh and blood, But because flesh and blood (John 3) are condemned as something that cannot recognize the kingdom of God, so must it be true that this should not be called the creature of God, as there is flesh, bone, skin, and hair, because such things are all good creatures of God.” Cf. Wilfried Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967), 272/273. According to Luther, so Joest, one will “definitely have to deny an ontological necessity of sin to the greater glory of God [ad maiorem Dei gloriam] … Such a thought, that would indeed follow, that God created humankind as sinners, which would revoke the Fall of Man as an event and turn it into a manifestation of the creaturely nature of mankind occurring with essential necessity, can already be ruled out a priori for Luther the scriptural theologian. It could not occur to him at all.”
(35.) On this, see Luther, Die Disputation de divinitate et humanitate Christi, WA 39/II, 98,15–18: “For this reason, so that we could grasp it, God gave us formulas for saying that Christ is God and man in one person, and there are not two persons, but two natures united in one person.” (Ideo ut capere aliquomodo possimus, dedit Deus nobis formulas loquendi, quod Christus sit Deus et homo in una persona, et non sunt duae personae, sed duae naturae unitae sunt in una persona.).
(36.) See note 27 above. Luther holds that God, on the basis of his love, wants human beings to come to him and be in fellowship with him. This fellowship is initiated by the redemption in Christ.
(37.) See Section “Cross and Resurrection.”
(38.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 601,1/2.
(39.) See Luther, Die Disputation de divinitate et humanitate Christi, WA 39/II, 93,2–7, Thesen 1–3: “1. The Catholic faith is this, that we confess one lord, Christ, true God and man. 2. From this truth of twin substance and unity of person follows that one, which is called communication of properties. 3. So that the things which are of man may rightly be said to be of God, and the things which are God’s may be called of man.” (1. Fides catholica haec est, ut unum dominum Christum confiteamur verum Deum et hominem. 2. Ex hac veritate geminae substantiae et unitate personae sequitur illa, quae dicitur, communicatio idiomatum. 3. Ut ea, quae sunt hominis, recte de Deo et e contra, quae Dei sunt, de homine dicantur.).
(40.) On the uniqueness and unfathomability of this unity, see Luther, Predigt vom 22.11.1537, WA 45, 306,28–32: “Whoever wants to understand something of this, what sort of great, immense unification it is, that God and man are united in one indivisible Person, he should hold the two natures, divinity and humanity up against each other and consider how far God and man are from each other, certainly further than heaven and earth.”
(41.) See Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 333,6–10: “No, comrade, where you put God for me, there also must you put humanity for me, They do not let themselves be separated and divided from each other, It has become one person and does not separate the humanity from itself in the way that master Hans takes off his tunic and lays it aside when he goes to sleep.”
(42.) See “Decretum Chalcedonensis Concilii,” in Die Bekenntnisschriften der Evangelisch Lutherischen Kirche, ed. Irene Dingel et al. (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014), 1613,1/2.16/17.
(43.) Cf. stanza 9 of Luther’s song “From Heaven above” (Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her): “Ah, Lord, Creator of all things, how have you become so small, that you lie on dried-up grass, of which an ox ate, and an ass!” (Ach Herr, du Schöpfer aller Ding, wie bist du worden so gering, dass du da liegst auf dürrem Gras, davon ein Rind und Esel aß!).
(44.) Luther, Die Promotionsdisputation von Theodor Fabricius und Stanislaus Rapagelanus, WA 39/II, 280,16–21, where he states: “The union of humanity and divinity in Christ is one true person, not two, and what is attributed to one is also rightly assigned to the other. To attack the Person of Christ is to deny his nature. God has suffered, man has created heaven and earth, man has died, God, who has been from eternity, has died, that child suckling at the Virgin Mary’s breasts is the founder of all things.” (Unio humanitatis et divinitatis in Christo est una vera persona, non duae, et quod uni tribuitur, alteri quoque recte assignatur. Impugnare personam Christi est negare eius naturam. Deus est passus, homo creavit coelum et terram, homo est mortuus, Deus, qui fuit ab aeterno, est mortuus, puer ille sugens ubera Mariae virginis est conditor omnium rerum.).
(45.) Luther, Von den Konziliis und Kirchen, WA 50, 589,22–26. See also 589,33–590,1: “Again, when one speaks of God, one must also give the human its due, Namely, God has created the world and is almighty, The man Christ is God, therefore has the man Christ created the world and is almighty”; Luther, Die Disputation de divinitate et humanitate Christi, WA 39/II, 93,8/9, These 4: “Truly is it said: that man created the world and that God has suffered, died, buried, etc.” (Vere dicitur: Iste homo creavit mundum et Deus iste est passus, mortuus, sepultus etc.).
(46.) See note 16 above and Albrecht Beutel, In dem Anfang war das Wort. Studien zu Luthers Sprachverständnis (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 317: “In reference to the exchange of properties, Luther emphatically … stresses that it can make sense only in concrete speech related to the Person of Christ.”
(47.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 321,19–322,22.
(48.) For a critique of the Lutheran doctrine of the exchange of properties, see Friedrich Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt. Zweite Auflage (1830/31), ed. Rolf Schäfer (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008), § 97, Abschnitt 5, 87–89.
(49.) See note 25 above.
(50.) Luther, Die Promotionsdisputation von Theodor Fabricius und Stanislaus Rapagelanus, WA 39/II, 280,18–21 (cf. note 44). See also Luther, Galaterbriefkommentar, WA 40/I, 427,14–22: “Christ, according to his divinity and substance or nature, divine and eternal, is without beginning, but Humanity is a nature created within time. These two natures in Christ are not muddled and mixed together, and what is proper to each must be clearly understood. It is of the nature of humanity to have begun within time, of divinity to be eternal without a beginning; And nonetheless these two do come together and divinity without beginning is incorporated into humanity with a beginning. So that I am therefore compelled to distinguish between humanity and divinity and to say: Humanity is not divinity, And yet a human is God.” (Christus secundum divinitatem et substantia vel natura divina et aeterna sine principio, Humanitas vero est natura in tempore creata. Hae duae naturae in Christo sunt inconfusae et impermixtae et utriusque proprium est distincte intelligendum. Humanitatis est incepisse in tempore, Divinitatis est esse aeternum sine principio; Et tamen conveniunt haec duo et incorporatur divinitas sine principio in humanitatem cum principio. Ut ergo distinguere cogor inter humanitatem et divinitatem et dicere: Humanitas non est divinitas, Et tamen homo est Deus.).
(51.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 327–329 (see note 21).
(52.) See Section “Eucharist.”
(53.) Luther, Predigt vom 21.11.1537, WA 45, 289,26–29; see also 289,23–26: “What the man Christ has done for us, that God has done, and what God has done, that the man has done. For this reason, we are redeemed by God’s suffering and dying, by God’s death and blood.”
(54.) Luther, Der Große Katechismus, Erstes Gebot, WA 30/I, 133,1ff.*
(55.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos, Auslegung von Ps 22, WA 5, 605,3.
(56.) Luther, Predigt am Karfreitag, 18.4.1522, WA 10/III, 73,1–4: “Look, there may you let your Christ poor plain humans (as are we all, if he was without sin) stay. For this reason did he also here [i.e., in the Garden of Gethsemane] so sorrow and tremble at the closeness of death.”
(57.) Luther, Ein Sermon von der Betrachtung des heiligen Leidens Christi, WA 2, 140,35–38.
(58.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos, Auslegung von Ps 22, WA 5, 605,25–28: Dilexit ergo Christus patrem ex omnibus viribus, sed cruciatus illi, quia supra vires erant, coegerunt naturam innocentem et infirmam gemere, clamare, horrere et fugere, sicut si trabem supra vires oneres, necessitate naturae nullo vitio suo crepat.
(59.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos, Auslegung von Ps 22, WA 5, 606,9–18.
(60.) See Luther, Predigt am Karfreitag, 10.4.1528, WA 27, 105,16–18: “This is preaching full of consolation, that this supreme work was done, that our sin is put on him, 2 Cor., ‘who has not made sin’ etc. This is the sweetest preaching on earth, nor will a sweeter come.” (Haec est consolatione plena praedicatio, quod hoc supremum opus fit, quod peccatum nostrum in ipsum ponitur 2. Cor. ‚qui peccatum non fecit’ etc. Haec est dulcissima praedicatio in terris nec dulcior veniet.)
(61.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos, Auslegung von Ps 22, WA 5, 604,8–11: “This sin CHRIST has suffered … , of which Paul in 2 Cor. 6 says, ‘him who knew not sin (behold a consciousness innocent of that earlier sin) he made to be sin’ (behold, a consciousness of sin created and assumed for us). ” (Hoc peccatum CHRISTUS passus est [ … ], de quo Paulus 2. Cor. 6. ‚Eum, qui peccatum non novit (ecce conscientia innocens a peccato illo priore), peccatum fecit’ (ecce conscientia peccati facta et assumpta pro nobis).)
(62.) See, e.g., Luther, Galaterbriefkommentar, WA 40/I, v.a. 435,11/12.
(63.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos, Auslegung von Ps 22, WA 5, 607,31–33: Christum pro nobis factum esse peccatum, quod deserente deo, sine culpa, factus est similis per omnia novissimo peccatori, cui non nisi ira dei in conscientiam irrueret et in desperationem urgeret.
(64.) Luther, Rationis Latomianae confutatio, WA 8, 86,31–34: “And let us come to the institution, while Christ is being offered for us, he is metaphorically become sin, since he was so like a sinner in all things—condemned, abandoned, confounded—that he differed in no respect from a real sinner save that the offense and sin which he bore he had not committed himself.” (Et ut ad institutum veniamus, Christus dum offerretur pro nobis, factus est peccatum metaphorice, cum peccatori ita fuerit per omnia similis, damnatus, derelictus, confusus, ut nulla re differret a vero peccatore, quam quod reatum et peccatum, quod tulit, ipse non fecerat.) See Anna Vind, „‚Christus factus est peccatum metaphorice‘: Über die theologische Verwendung rhetorischer Figuren bei Luther unter Einbeziehung Quintilians,“ in Creator est Creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation, ed. Oswald Bayer et al. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007), 95–124; see also Jens Wolff, Metapher und Kreuz: Studien zu Luthers Christusbild (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 187ff.*
(65.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 273,22–24: According to Luther, it is called “a trope or Metaphor in grammar, when one gives two different things one and the same name for the sake of there being one likeness in both.” In the metaphor “Achilles is a lion,” Achilles’s bravery and strength are highlighted by his being characterized as a lion, since bravery and strength, which in the metaphor are not only compared but equated precisely with Achilles’s bravery and strength, count as the lion’s pre-eminent qualities.
(66.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos, Auslegung von Ps 22, WA 5, 607,3–8: Nisi enim prope esset, non [Christus] diceret ‚deus meus’. Nisi esset longe, non diceret ‚dereliquisti me’. Itaque nos longe sumus a salute, dum patimur, sed ille est prope, ut auxilietur, quia quod nobis impossibile et desperatum est, illi possibile et facile est, ut universa longinquitas sit ex parte infirmitatis nostrae patientis, idest derelictae, quae aliud non est quam ipse sensus cruciatuum.
(67.) See Luther, Ein Sermon von der Betrachtung des heiligen Leidens Christi, WA 2, 140,34.36–38: because of his love, Christ bears the “sin so heavy;” this can be recognized by considering Christ’s heart: “[C]limb through Christ’s heart to God’s heart and see that Christ could not have shown love for you if God had not wanted to have it in eternal love, which Christ obeys with his love for you.”
(68.) Luther, Ein Sermon von der Betrachtung des heiligen Leidens Christi, WA 2, 140,20/21.
(69.) Luther, Ein Sermon von der Betrachtung des heiligen Leidens Christi, WA 2, 140,22–26.
(70.) Cf. Paul’s speech in 1 Cor. 13: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ is therefore also not risen again,” which according to Luther cannot convince an irreligious person. The unbeliever will believe neither in the universal resurrection of the dead nor in Christ’s resurrection. See Luther, Predigt vom 22.9.1532, WA 36, 525,27–29: “when one says such a thing to a heathen, so he puts as much store by one as by the other; he believes that Christ is risen just as little as that we are going to rise again.”
(71.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 601,26–28.
(72.) See Luther, Auslegung des dritten und vierten Kapitels Johannis, WA 47, 81,4–14: “If you adhere to the Son by the faith that has overcome death and rent the Devil’s belly, … so will you rend through death and the Devil … If you hold this as the truth, the marvelous work, that God has loved the world, and say, ‘I believe in the Son of God and Mary, who was nailed on the Cross and raised up, Then will you learn that you are born again, for death and sin will no longer accuse you, and do no damage or suffering or hurt, for whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life.”
(73.) Luther, Auslegung des ersten und zweiten Kapitels Johannis, WA 46, 582,17–19.
(74.) Luther, Zweite Invokavitpredigt, WA 10/III, 15,23–28; cf. 18,25–30: “For where the Word has made heaven and earth and all things, the same Word must here also do, and not us poor sinners. All things considered, I will preach it, I will say it, I will write it, but no one will I compel and urge by force, for faith wants to be willing and unforced, and to be accepted without compulsion.”
(75.) On Luther’s use of the words “heart,” “soul,” “conscience” (Herz, Seele, Gewissen), see Eilert Herms, “Mensch,” in Luther Handbuch, ed. Albrecht Beutel (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), v.a. 399.
(76.) See Luther, Der Große Katechismus, Zum dritten Artikel, WA 30/I, 187/188.
(77.) Cf. Luther, De servo arbitrio, WA 18, 606,29: “Take Christ out of the Scriptures, what more will you find in them?” (Tolle Christum e scripturis, quid amplius in illis invenies?).
(78.) Luther, De servo arbitrio, WA 18, 606,11/12: Duae res sunt Deus et Scriptura Dei, non minus quam duae res sunt, Creator et creatura Dei.
(79.) On his hermeneutics of Scripture, see Luther, De servo arbitrio, WA 18, 609,4–14.
(80.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 437–445. On the distinction between synecdochical and metaphorical ways of speaking, see also note 65 above.
(81.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 329,25/26.
(82.) On the definition of this synecdochical unity, see the negative definitions of Chalcedon, which describe the unity of God and man in the person of Christ (unmixed, unchanged, undivided, etc.) and note 42 above.
(83.) See Dorothea Wendebourg, “Taufe und Abendmahl,” in Luther Handbuch, ed. Albrecht Beutel (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 421/422.
(84.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 445,10–12.14–15.
(85.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 442,29–38:
This is why it is nonetheless rightly said, that one points to the bread and speaks, ‘This is Christ’s body,’ and whoever sees the bread sees the body of Christ … Therefore from now on is rightly said: ‘Anyone who takes this bread touches Christ’s body, And anyone who eats this bread, eats Christ’s body, anyone who bites this bread with teeth or tongue, bites Christ’s body with teeth or tongue, And yet it remains true that no one sees, takes, eats, or chews Christ’s body, as one visibly sees and chews other flesh, For what one does to the bread is rightly and well suited to the body of Christ for the sake of sacramental unity.
(86.) Luther, Katechismuspredigten, WA 30/I, 27,6/7.
(87.) The consumption of the elements of the Eucharist according to Luther signifies liberation for the believer from the sinful past into eternal communion with God. On this, and on the unbeliever’s taking of Communion, see Anne Käfer, Inkarnation und Schöpfung, 56–66.
(88.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 506,32. On his talk of Christ’s spiritual body, see Section “The Christian Community.”
(89.) See, e.g., Luther, Von der Wiedertaufe an zwei Pfarrherrn, WA 26, 160,5: “If now the faith comes, then has your baptism done it.”
(90.) Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium, WA 6, 534,3–9: Significat [ … ] baptismus duo, mortem et resurrectionem, hoc est, plenariam consumatamque iustificationem. Quod enim minister puerum immergit in aquam, mortem significat, quod autem rursum educit, vitam significat. Cf. Rom. 6:3ff.*
(91.) Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium, WA 6, 572,17.
(92.) Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium, WA 6, 534,26: commoritur et corresurgit. Here, Christ dies and rises again in Baptism, as in the Eucharist, not on repeated occasions; rather, he is present as the crucified Risen One. Looking at the resurrection of humankind, Luther distinguishes a resurrection after biological death and a resurrection in the midst of life; according to him, it is true “that at times the Scripture speaks of a spiritual resurrection when it means coming from sin into a new spiritual life, which occurs through faith and baptism even in this life.” At the same time, it has to do with “how we will rise again after this life, when we are dead” (Luther, Predigt vom 1.12.1532, WA 36, 629,21–25).
(93.) Luther, Der Große Katechismus, Von den Sakramenten, WA 30/I, 216,31ff.; 226,24ff.*
(94.) The believer’s life is a “passage from this world to the Father” (transitus ex hoc mundo ad patrem); see Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium, WA 6, 534,38/39.
(95.) Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, WA 7, 22,31–23,3 (italics mine).
(96.) On this, see Antti Raunio, „Sein und Leben Jesu Christi im Glauben bei Luther,“ in Luther und Ontologie: Das Sein Christi im Glauben als strukturierendes Prinzip der Theologie Luthers, ed. Anja Ghiselli et al. (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1993), 138/139: “Christ’s being in faith is, for Luther, the spiritual presence of Christ in the believer. Through Christ’s spiritual presence, the human being becomes a partaker in the life of Christ as well. The ‘spirituality’ of the present in the long run characterizes the presence of divine love. Through partaking in the life of Christ, the human being is transformed. Luther understands the being of Jesus Christ in a Christian not so that the person’s identity would be completely different from the way it was before. Rather, it has to do with Christ’s all-pervasive presence and divine love, and with the struggle against self-centered love. Because a person’s natural being and thereby his identity is not lost, Luther can speak of the cooperation of the human being with divine righteousness in regard to the realization of the Christian life.”
(97.) Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, WA 7, 25,26–34.
(98.) Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, WA 7, 25,37.
(99.) See also Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, WA 7, 26,4.
(100.) Cf. Eph. 5:30–31.
(101.) See note 34 above.
(102.) See the explanatory remarks in note 64 above.
(103.) This is the direction in which Notger Slenczka appears to be arguing: see Notger Slenczka, „Der Freiheitsgehalt des Glaubensbegriffs als Zentrum protestantischer Dogmatik,“ in Freiheit und Menschenwürde, ed. Jörg Dierken et al. (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 59/60, which advances the postulate that Luther’s explanatory remarks have to do with Christ’s redeeming action freeing a human being from himself so that he becomes a different, “new” person to whom a new identity is promised with the forgiveness of sin;
and this implies that for Luther the freedom component of faith lies firstly and chiefly in the fact that the subject becomes free of itself, i.e., the believer is free insofar and in the sense that he is emancipated from the necessity of identifying himself with himself … among the things from which the person is free, not only incidentally but in the center, is his own biographical identity, from which the person is free in the sense of being promised counterfactually another’s biography in an act of judgement.
On this topic, see also the explanations of Oswald Bayer, to which Slenczka himself refers: Oswald Bayer, “Luthers Verständnis des Seins Jesu Christi im Glauben,” in Luther und Ontologie: Das Sein Christi im Glauben als strukturierendes Prinzip der Theologie Luthers, ed. Anja Ghiselli et al. (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1993), 109:
In the process of justification before God is the human being’s yearning for identity … contradicted; his striving for wholeness is broken in pieces. Beyond the break he can establish no continuity … . Rather, he is created anew and has his identity permanently outside of himself, in another, a stranger: in whom a marvelous exchange and trade of human sin and divine righteousness has taken its place.
These interpretations raise the question of what extent the fact that the old, sinful human person is redeemed not from sin but from himself brings about his salvation. That Luther should pay attention to the liberation of a human creature from itself and thereby the ending of its existence as part of the intention of the Creator, who made his creatures just to bring them to himself through his redeeming action (see note 27 above), can in my opinion only be assumed if inconsistency and intellectual gaps are assumed for Luther’s theology.
(104.) Luther, Galaterbriefkommentar, WA 40/I, 285,24–26 (emphasis mine): Verum recte docenda est fides, quod per eam sic conglutineris Christo, ut ex te et ipso fiat quasi una persona quae non possit segregari sed perpetuo adhaerescat ei.
(105.) Luther, Galaterbriefkommentar, WA 40/I, 285,26–286,15 (emphasis mine): et dicat: Ego sum ut Christus, et vicissim Christus dicat: Ego sum ut ille peccator, qui adhaeret mihi, et ego illi; Coniuncti enim sumus per fidem in unam carnem.
(106.) On the understanding of the mystical figure of “union with Christ” (unio cum Christo), see Albrecht Beutel, “‘Einswerden mit Christus.’ Die Aufnahme mystischer Frömmigkeit bei Martin Luther,” in Sehnsüchtig nach Leben. Aufbrüche zu neuer Frömmigkeit, ed. Evangelisches Predigerseminar Wittenberg/Peter Freybe (Wittenberg, Germany: Drei Kastanien Verlag, 2006), 91/92:
the specific use which Luther makes of the concept of unio, developed in the mystical tradition of thought, is only grasped correctly when the difference that separates it from mystical speculation about union, but especially from the idea of an amorphous fusion, is clearly perceived. With Luther, the concept of unio is correctly to be understood only from the perspective of its soteriological point. Far from all mystical-speculative interest, he was aiming only at that certainty in which the conscience can trust that it is a partaker in faith in God’s reality and is preserved in it.
See also Beutel, In dem Anfang war das Wort, 444/445.
(107.) Luther, Galaterbriefkommentar, WA 40/I, 287,28/29: Est [ … ] duplex vita: Mea naturalis vel animalis, et aliena, scilicet Christi in me.
(108.) Gal. 2:20: in me.
(109.) See Matthieu Arnold, “Luther On Christ’s Person and Work,” in The Oxford Handbook Of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 286: “The union of the Christian to Christ is not mystical in type; it comes from the faith which ‘unites the soul to Christ as a bride is united to her bridegroom’ [ … ]. To link the believer to Christ as Saviour, neither mysticism nor theological speculation is of use, but the action of the Holy Spirit, through the public means of preaching and sacrament.”
(110.) See note 97 above.
(111.) See note 27 above.
(112.) Luther, Von den guten Werken, WA 6, 206,14/15: “Of faith and no other work do we have the name, that we are called believers in Christ.” It is not a Christian believer’s acts of love that determine his Christian being; rather, it is faith in God, which Luther indeed equates with love of God (WA 6, 210,5–9), and from which these acts proceed as good works (WA 6, 213,13/14).
(113.) Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen, WA 7, 38,6–10.
(114.) Luther, Galaterbriefkommentar, WA 40/I, 427,11–14: fides perpetuo iustificat et vivificat, et tamen non manet sola, id est, otiosa. Non quod non sola in suo gradu et officio maneat, quia perpetuo sola iustificat, sed incarnatur et fit homo, hoc est, non est et manet otiosa vel sine charitate.
(115.) Luther, Siebte Invokavitpredigt, WA 10/III, 55,26–56,15. Cf. also Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ethical expositions, which arose as he grappled with Luther’s theology. Time and again they prompt questions about what action on the part of the Church and believers Luther, whose theology is fundamentally defined by God in Christ’s coming into the world for the salvation of the world, would probably have demanded in view of the horrors and crises in the world that defined the past century as well as the present one: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge, ed. Martin Kuske et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke, Bd. 4, 5th ed. (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2013), 33ff.*; Ethik, ed. Ilse Tödt et al., Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke, Bd. 6, 3d ed. (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2010), 358/359:
The word of the Church to the world can be none other than the Word of God to the world. This means Jesus Christ and salvation in his Name. In Jesus Christ is defined God’s relationship to the world … (a) The Church’s word to the world is the Word of God’s coming into the flesh, of God’s love for the world in the mission of his Son … (b) The word of God’s love for the world places the community in a responsible relationship to the world. In word and action, the community has to witness faith in Christ to the world … Where this responsibility is denied, Christ is denied, for it is responsibility that corresponds to God’s love for the world.
(116.) See 1 Cor. 12:27.
(117.) Luther, Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis, WA 26, 506,32.
(118.) See Section “The Proclamation of the Incarnate God through Language.”
(119.) Luther, Resolutiones Lutherianae super propositionibus suis Lipsiae disputatis, WA 2, 430,6–7: “For the Church is a creature of the Gospel” (Ecclesia enim creatura est Euangelii).
(120.) Luther, Katechismuspredigten, WA 30/I, 91,19/20: “The Christian Church is your mother; she procreates you through the Word and bears you” (Christiana ecclesia est mater tua, illa zeugt dich per verbum et tregt dich).
(121.) Cf. Luther, Der Große Katechismus, Zum dritten Artikel, WA 30/I, 188,6ff.*
(122.) See Beutel, In dem Anfang war das Wort, 316; Oswald Bayer, Martin Luthers Theologie: Eine Vergegenwärtigung (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 213.
(123.) On Luther’s hermeneutics, see Section “The Proclamation of the Incarnate God through Language.”
(124.) Niels Henrik Gregersen, “Deep Incarnation: Why Evolutionary Continuity Matters in Christology,” in Toronto Journal of Theology 26/2, 2010, at 185:
The concept of ‛deep Incarnation’ thus aims to formulate the scope of salvation in such a way that God’s Incarnation stretches into the depths of our planet’s conditions for life. This view is developed in critical interaction with the idea of ‛deep ecology’ coined by the Norwegian eco-philosopher Arne Næss.
(125.) On the reception of these theories, see, inter alia, Ronald Cole-Turner, “Incarnation Deep and Wide: A Response to Niels Gregersen,” in Theology and Science 11/4, 2013, 424–435, and Joshua M. Moritz, “Deep Incarnation and the Imago Dei: The Cosmic Scope of the Incarnation in Light of the Messiah as the Renewed Adam,” in Theology and Science 11/4, 2013, 436–443.
(126.) Niels Henrik Gregersen, “Deep Incarnation: The Logos became Flesh,” in Transformative Theological Perspectives, ed. Karen L. Bloomquist et al. (Minneapolis, MN: Lutheran University Press, 2009), 168/169; see also Niels Henrik Gregersen, “Deep Incarnation: Why Evolutionary Continuity Matters in Christology,” 176.
(127.) See “Gregersen, Deep Incarnation: The Logos became Flesh,” 174: “In other words, the flesh that is assumed in Jesus of Nazareth, is not only the man Jesus, but also the entire realm of humanity, animal and plant life, even the soil itself.” See also Gregersen, “Deep Incarnation: Why Evolutionary Continuity Matters in Christology,” 182: “God becomes Jesus, and in him God becomes human, and (by implication) foxes and sparrows, grass and soil.” The view that God is incarnate in his creation is also represented by Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), but she nonetheless proceeds from the indwelling of God’s Spirit in creation. On the critical response to McFague’s position, see Anne Käfer, “Ökotheologie und ihre pneumatologischen Voraussetzungen,” in International Journal of Orthodox Theology, 3/2, 2012, 61–87.
(128.) See Gregersen, “Deep Incarnation: The Logos became Flesh,” 178.
(129.) See Section “Child of Humankind.”
(130.) See Gregersen, “Deep Incarnation: The Logos became Flesh,” 180.
(131.) See Jürgen Moltmann, Ethik der Hoffnung (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2010), 155: “At the center of Christianity stands faith in the Incarnation of God. In European cultural history, Christian anthropocentrism has slowly driven out the ancient universe-centeredness and prepared the way for modern civilization’s anthropocentric project … From this it follows that Christianity, viewed in the context of cultural history, is a factor in the ecological crisis into which Western expansionist culture is bringing the Earth.”
(132.) See Section “Eternal Word (Logos).”
(133.) Karl Barth, by way of example, explicitly excludes the sinfulness of animals and even describes the animal as a model for a human being and his relation to God: see Karl Barth, Die Lehre von der Schöpfung: Das Werk der Schöpfung, KD III/1, 4th ed. (Zürich, Switzerland: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 1970), § 41,2., 198:
The animal precedes the human in self-evident praise of its Creator, in the natural fulfillment of the destiny given to it in its creation, in the humble recognition and confirmation of its own creaturehood, in fact. It also precedes the human in that it does not forget its animal nature, its dignity, as well as its limits, but maintains them and thus asks the human whether and to what extent the same might be said of him.
(134.) See Section “The Community of Love.”
(135.) On the significance of the Incarnation for the entire Earth, cf. Gregersen’s explanatory remarks in note 126 above. On the environmental ethics considerations summarized here, see Anne Käfer, “Zum Wohl des Tieres. Überlegungen zur Würde der Geschöpfe im Anschluss an Eilert Herms,” in Leibhaftes Personsein: Theologische und interdisziplinäre Perspektiven: Festschrift für Eilert Herms zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. Elisabeth Gräb-Schmidt et al. (Leipzig, Germany: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 2015), 337–352.