The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview

24
THE TRUE CHURCH
AND THE EMPIRICAL CHURCH

THE AUTHORITY OF TRADITION
AND ITS LIMITATION

FOR LUTHER the Christian church is, without detriment to its spiritual nature, a historical reality, which constantly existed through all the centuries from the time of the apostles till his own time. The Evangelicals are not another and a new church but “the true old church, one body with the entire holy Christian church, and one community of saints.”1 In spite of all his heartfelt criticism of the Roman Church, Luther remained certain that God had, in spite of everything, miraculously preserved the true church even in the midst of its Babylonian captivity.2 The Evangelicals received the great Christian inheritance from the hands of the pre-Reformation church—for this inheritance was not lost even under the papacy. “We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed, everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance, we confess that in the Papal Church there are the true Holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the Creed.”3 The things which Luther lists are, with the exception of the last, “the articles of the Creed,” all biblical material. The fact that he names these together with materials taken directly from the Bible leads us to conclude that he, in spite of many concerns about details, received the creeds of the ancient church as essentially corresponding to biblical truth.4 He found genuine Christian content in the Ro

1WA 51, 487.

2WA 38, 220.

3WA 26, 147; LW 40, 231 f. a. WA 401, 69; LW 26, 24. At this place
Luther specifically mentions the church in the city of Rome. Cf. WA 51, 501.
WA 39II, 167

4 Cf. p. 7.

-333-

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The Theology of Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • From the Preface to the German Edition v
  • Translator's Note ix
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Authority of Scripture and of the Creeds 3
  • 2: The Subject Matter of Theology 9
  • Part One - The Knowledge of God the Word of God and Faith 13
  • 3: The General and the Proper Knowledge of God 15
  • 4: God in Himself and God as He Reveals Himself 20
  • 5: The Theology of the Cross 25
  • 6: The Word of God and the Spirit of God 35
  • 7: Faith 43
  • 8: Reason 64
  • 9: The Holy Scripture 72
  • Part Two - God's Work 103
  • 10: God is God 105
  • 11: God's Will for Men 130
  • 12: Man as a Sinner 141
  • 13: Man Between God and Satan 161
  • 14: Man Under the Wrath of God 169
  • 15: God in Jesus Christ 179
  • 16: The Trinity 199
  • 17: Jesus Christ as the Reconciler and Redeemer 201
  • 18: Righteousness in Faith 224
  • 19: Law and Gospel 251
  • 20: The Freedom of the Gracious God 274
  • 21: The People of God 287
  • 22: The Church as the Community of Saints 294
  • 23: The Office of the Ministry 323
  • 24: The True Church and the Empirical Church 333
  • 25: The Sacrament 345
  • 26: Baptism 353
  • 27: The Lord's Supper 375
  • 28: Eschatology 404
  • Appendixes 427
  • Appendix One - “and Though I Had All Faith” 429
  • Appendix Two - “love and the Certainty of Salvation” 446
  • Indexes 459
  • Index of Names 460
  • Index of Subjects 461
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