Saint Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Faith and Facts I: Changing Luther’s Doctrine of Sola Fide.



I am reading an interesting book I purchased on the internet. The title is ‘Catholic Moral Teaching and Its Antagonists’ by Joseph Mausbach, D.D. It was printed in 1914 and presents and defends Catholic moral teaching against many Protestant arguments. I found some information that the book presented on Lutheranism, and how the view of justification, and the doctrine of sola fide, or faith alone, has changed over the years. Most of the “average Joe” Lutheran church goers probably have no idea how the Lutheran sect has changed its teaching over on this doctrine. Most probably do not even understand what Luther taught concerning the heretical doctrine. As a whole, Lutheranism does not present what their founder Martin Luther taught concerning “faith alone.” For example, Luther’s famous “faith alone” doctrine has been shifted back towards the Catholic view, which is not really “faith alone,” but faith working and charity. This is one of the reasons why their have been recent attempts to try and reconcile the modern Lutheran doctrine and Catholic doctrine on the matter, although what they are now trying to reconcile is not really the Catholic doctrine of faith and works, and the classic Lutheran doctrine of faith alone. There is no way possible to reconcile the two, the error must be either condemned or simply changed. These changes however are presented not as changes, but that what has been taught before was only misunderstood.

The books offers a nice explanation of what was going on back in the early 1900s concerning this issue. Lutheran’s had began to shift away from Luther’s radical heresy of sola fide, because they realized that it could not stand up to Biblical scrutiny. Yet, as they changed it, they still insisted that it was “Lutheran.” This has continued on to this day. Below is a quote from the text on pages 25 and 27 of this book, which gives a good explanation of what happened in this new redefining of what the Lutherans now wanted to be accepted as their new doctrine of Sola Fide. Of course, this does not apply to all “Lutherans” since there are many different sects of them. You still have the occasional "trad-Lutherans" who attempt to adhere to the radical, confused and ultimately contradicting doctrine that Luther himself presented. Otherwise, it seems that many “Lutherans” have just decided to reformulate what they wanted Luther to have taught, rather than what he really taught.


There have always been Protestant theologians who boasted of preserving their inheritance from Luther with scrupulous fidelity. They have watched with distrust every attempt to attach more importance to the necessity of a moral life. Ever since the time of the Majoristic controversy "the aversion to any interpretation or expression which brought obedience on the part of man, or his good works, into relation with eternal life grew year by year stronger and more general among German Protestants,” and theological works with a strongly marked moral tendency incurred at once the suspicion of heresy.

Apart from the veneration of Luther's person by Protestants, there is something else which makes it difficult for them to assign the true historical meaning to his definitive teaching, and this is the fact that, in the course of time, Protestant preachers and theologians have stripped Luther's doctrine of justification of its contradiction and, as we have seen in the case of Tschackert, have changed sola fides into "faith and charity."

This is the so-called silent reformation which Krogh-Tonning describes as a "reaction in the heart of Protestantism in favour of Catholicism." It is at the same time a very decided "condemnation of the essential point in Luther's teaching." In consequence of this gradual transformation, as this Norwegian convert points out, the relation of faith to good works is now a doctrine upon which Catholics and Protestants are practically agreed. Protestant theology has abandoned those of Luther's tenets that are unchristian and subversive of morality, and so it now teaches a form of Lutheranism that is not historical, for "it has given up the principles antagonistic to the Church, and by means of a silent reformation has again taken up the moral point, endeavouring all the while to assert its Lutheran origin, even in matters that are irreconcilable with the thoughts and the teaching of the Reformation."...

Hamack admits that many Protestants still refuse to agree to the proposition that faith only is valuable which reveals itself in love of God and of one's neighbour, and that their refusal to agree to it becomes more obstinate when they engage in religious controversy with Catholics. This is due not to any interior, ethical, or even biblical difficulty involved in the proposition, but to a consciousness that it contradicts Luther's doctrine of justification, which they are unwilling to surrender. Moreover, if the antithesis "faith alone," and "faith and love" is defined as Hamack defines it, the former receives a meaning which forbids us to say that Luther asserted the correct doctrine in the sharpest terms. A Catholic is certainly not led to consider the delicate question whether value is to be attached to faith or love, because he abides by the principle of faith and love, — faith as the root, love as the blossom and fruit of justification. On the other hand, with the principle "faith alone," the question is already settled in a most fatal and incorrect manner. That faith is absolutely inseparable from love is true of that view of faith mentioned by St Paid in Galatians v. 6, which scholasticism describes as "faith inspired by love," and which Luther also occasionally has depicted very nicely. But elsewhere he emphatically combats this fides caritate formata of the scholastics and denies that love bears any relation to justification; he represents justifying faith as compatible with sin even so emphatically, that it is impossible to say that his conception of faith necessarily includes charity.

‘Catholic Moral Teaching and Its Antagonists’ by Joseph Mausbach, D.D.

Here we can see what the new Lutheran teaching is concerning "faith alone."

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