The Gospel according to Luther’s Mentor

Whereas every Protestant recognizes Martin Luther’s articulation of the gospel, his debt to his Father confessor and mentor Johann Von Staupitz is seldom acknowledged. Staupitz and Luther are by no means identical, but the gap between Staupitz’s devotional Augustinian theology and Luther’s Protestantism is the width of a running jump. If anyone dives headlong across the chasm with no reservation or thought to abort, one will land safely on the other side.

Here are some beautiful thoughts from Staupitz’s Libellus de executione eterne predestinatiōis (Eternal Predestination and its Execution in Time), a book far richer in wonder and thanksgiving than its title might suggest:*

“Since we are unable to acquire faith by our own means, it is clear that what flesh and blood does not reveal is, doubtless, a gift of God and not the result of our works.” (178)

“The justified man cannot but love.” (185)

“Far more exalted are the merits of Christ Himself, His actions, sufferings, and death, for by nature He was and is the Son of God. His merits are given to us to be ours and on them we found and build our firm hope, for we know our hope is firmly founded on them. Only Christ’s own merits can one call merit of full worthiness…. They are sufficient alone to save all Christianity or indeed the whole world.” (186)

“If Christ is I, I have a claim to heaven, I have hope, and I glory in that hope which belongs to the children of God; and more than that I also glory in all things which directly or indirectly foster hope.” (188)

“The lowest point of misery is called guilt. The highest point of mercy we steadfastly believe to be the Incarnation of our Lord. Only when we connect the nadir of misery and the apex of mercy do we extol God’s compassion above all His works.” (188)

“I am righteous because of Your righteousness and a sinner because of my guilt. You are a sinner because of my guilt and righteous because of Your own righteousness. By the same token, I am strong through Your power but weakened by my own feebleness. You are weakened by my feebleness and strong in Your own power. I am wise in Your wisdom and foolish in my stupidity. You are wise in Your wisdom and foolish in my stupidity.” (190-91)

“Thus fear is transformed into love, and the burden of Christ is made very light, the yoke very easy. The fundamental reason the law is a burden is that you lose title to yourself, but this fundament is destroyed when our Lord Jesus Christ becomes acceptable and pleasing to us so that He ranks above ourselves and all other things.” (194-95)

“Great certitude of salvation awaits him who ponders the good in others, who often contemplates his own evil deeds, and who makes it a habit to condemn himself and justify others.” (199)

* The page numbers correspond to the excerpt found in Heiko Oberman’s The Forerunners of the Reformation

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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