The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview
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15
GOD IN JESUS CHRIST

THE RECEPTION OF THE
ANCIENT DOGMAS

I BELIEVE in Jesus Christ: this is the confession of faith in the Christian tradition which Luther received.1 Luther felt that the words “I believe” by themselves assert that Jesus Christ is God. For faith is a relationship to God. “If I should say to someone, 'I believe in you and I place my trust and the confidence of my heart in you,' that one must be my god.”2

Luther understands the confession that Christ is God in terms of the christological dogma of the ancient church. He expressly accepts the great ecumenical creeds of Greek and Latin theology. Apart from individual concepts he expresses no criticism of the traditional christological dogmas. He agrees with Athanasius and rejects Arius. His Christmas song, “All Praise to Thee, O Jesus Christ,” adores the miracle of the incarnation of the Eternal Son in the style of Greek christology.3 He particularly emphasizes that no power of reason is able to comprehend the paradox of the incarnation. The Creator has become a creature.4 Luther without reservation uses the traditional terminology of the “two natures” and of their unification in the one person of the Lord to describe the mystery of Jesus Christ. He adopts the ancient doctrine of the communication of attributes, that is, of the exchange of attributes between the two natures in the person of Christ and expands it in his doctrine of the Lord's Supper. He is as much concerned with the true deity of Christ as Athanasius or Anselm was and in the same sense as they. “If Christ is divested of his deity, there re

1 On Luther's christology, see Ernst Wolf, Die Cbristuiverkündigung bet
Luther
(1935). Reprinted in Peregrinatio (Munich: Kaiser, 1954), pp.
30 ff. Erich Seeberg, Cbrhtus, Wirklicbktit und Urbild (Stuttgart: Kohlham-
mer, 1937). P. W. Gennrich, Die CbristologU Luthers im Abendmahlsstreil
1524 bit 1529
(Göttingen: Vandenhoedc & Ruprecht, 1929).

2WA 37, 42.

3WA 53, 434 i.; LW 53, 240 f.

4WA 37, 43 f.

-179-

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