The Theology of Martin Luther

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

16
THE TRINITY

LUTHER accepts the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity because he knows that it is supported by the Scripture—not only by the New but also by the Old Testament.1 He emphasizes the “oneness” and the “three-ness” equally.2 God is one and three. His unity exceeds the one-ness of any creature and of any mathematical concept. For this reason Luther has no love for the concept “threefoldness” [Dreifaltigkeit] for “there is most sublime oneness in the deity.”3 But this one-ness is at the same time the three-ness of distinct “persons.” One God in three persons—every person is the entire deity and yet no person exists as the deity for itself without the other two.4 This all is based on the Scripture. Reason admittedly finds all this talk about one-ness and three-ness in God a stumbling block. But since it is based on clear Scripture, reason must be silent at this point and we must believe.5

The concepts used to express this mystery may very well be inadequate. Scripture does not speak of the “Trinity.” But one must teach in this way for the sake of the weak and in order to instruct at all. Whoever wants to use some other expression in place of that of the three persons is free to do it, but he must be very careful to preserve and express the substance which is at stake.6 That substance, however, is these two factors which are both with-

1 “Scripture thus cleverly proves that there are three persons and one God.
For I would believe neither the writings of Augustine nor the teachers of the
church unless the New and the Old Testaments would clearly show this doctrine
of the Trinity.” WA 39II, 305.

2WA 39II, 287 (theses 5ff.).

3WA 46, 436.

4WA 39II. 287.

5WA 10I,I, 152. “Here faith and not all sorts of sharp speculation is
needed.” WA 10I,I, 157, 186. “If natural reason does not comprehend this,
it is proper that faith alone should comprehend it; natural reason produces
heresy and error but faith teaches and holds the truth for it sticks to the Scrip-
ture which does not lie or deceive.” WA 10I,I, 191. Cf. D. 186 of this
volume and WA 37, 44.

6WA 39II. 305, 287.

-199-

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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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