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How Luther discovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone
One of the decisive doctrines to emerge from the Protestant Reformation—and central to Luther’s theology—was the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide).
But when and how did Luther come to his new understanding of this doctrine?
Rather than seeing his theological discovery as a single decisive event, we should view it more as a gradual process.
Let’s take a look.
Luther’s early encounters with Romans and Psalms
Between 1513 and 1516, Luther lectured on the Psalms and Romans. It is clear from these texts that he was beginning to think differently about how the individual sinner finds forgiveness from God.
He retained some of the older traditional concepts alongside his radical new ideas. Only after some years of biblical study under the inspiration of the theology of Augustine did Luther arrive at a more fully formed distinctive…
How the Protestant Reformation Started
You probably know at least one thing about Martin Luther: that he nailed the 95 theses to a church door and defied the Roman Catholic Church.
This was Luther’s declaration of independence from Rome.
The truth is, this is historically inaccurate.
Yes, October 31, 1517, would turn out to be the first hint that the Western world was about to be turned upside down. But Luther’s act on October 31, 1517 was not an act of rebellion.
It was, in fact, just the opposite. It was the act of a dutiful son of mother church.
Someone—no one knows who—took the Latin text of Luther’s 95 Theses, translated them into German, and sent them all over Germany. When the German people realized that Luther was standing up against abuses in the church, he became a hero throughout Germany.
The Reformation began.…
4 Reasons Why Faith vs. Science Is a Myth
“Tonight we will be talking about faith versus science. Our first guest is a former University of Oxford professor, evolutionary biologist, and bestselling author. He believes that science, not faith, holds the answers to all questions. On the other side of the aisle we have Joe Smith, who will speak for the legitimacy of faith and Christianity. Joe homeschools his kids, thinks Oprah is the Antichrist, and lives in a swamp” (23).
It does to Mark Clark. As he explains in his new book, The Problem of God, culture often portrays faith at odds with science: “science is about thinking, evidence, and rational justification, while Christianity and faith in general are about evading evidence and clinging to nonrationality” (25).
Where, Oh Where Did the Antecedent Go? (Phil 1:19) – Mondays with Mounce 295
Usually it is no big deal to find an antecedent. Start looking for a word with the same number and gender as the pronoun. Every once in a while, however, the antecedent can be a little elusive.
In Phil 1, Paul explains how his imprisonment and all that has happened to him (τὰ κατ᾿ ἐμὲ) has served to advance the gospel throughout the Palace Guard, which in turn has emboldened the Philippian Christians (1:12–15). He then includes a short caveat, explaining that different people have different motives, but at the end of the day he concludes ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω (1:16–18a).
Paul then shifts tenses from the…
Who wrote Jude?
The book of Jude itself tells us that it was written by “Jude, slave of Jesus the Anointed One, and brother of James.”
There is a consensus that the “brother of James” identifies the author as the brother of that James who led the community of Jesus-followers in Jerusalem from at least 40 CE until his execution in 62 CE—in other words the same person who wrote the book of James.
But note that neither Jude nor James mentions a family relationship…
Who wrote the book of James?
According to James 1:1, the letter is written by James himself. He was the son of Joseph, a construction worker who originally lived in Nazareth in Galilee.
He is always named next after Jesus in lists of Jesus’ brothers, so he was presumably considered to be Jesus’ next younger brother.
It’s also possible that James was the oldest of Jesus’ cousins if one follows Jerome’s interpretation that adelphos means “cousin,” the children of Mary wife of Clopas, also identified as “the mother of James and Joses.”
James was a prominent figure among the communities of the followers of Jesus living in Palestine in the first century. Paul names him, along with Cephas (Peter) and John, an acknowledged “pillar” of the Jerusalem community (Galatians 2:9);…
Gender & Sexual Identity: We Need a Fresh Perspective for Our People
For many years the intersection of gay identity and Christian identity in the United States was a virtual no-man’s land. Nate Collins is one of the more recent voices bridging that gap with his new book All But Invisible.
While similarly focused books emphasize the biblical and theological issues surrounding faith, gender, and sexuality, he provides a renewed vision of gospel flourishing for LGBT people by speaking from his own experience as a gay man in a mixed orientation marriage.
Collins is committed to helping churches include LGBT people in the family life of the church. But first, he addresses two big-picture problems facing Christians who want to explore identity questions at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality.
1) Vision Problem: The Abundant Life for LGBT People
This first problem is…
What James means by “Faith without works is dead”
Paul famously writes that “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
But James writes that “a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” and that “faith without works is dead.”
Which is correct? How are we to read Paul and James together?
Does James really mean that our works save us?
Before we talk about how to read Paul and James together, let’s take a close look at what James really says.
James tells us that if someone claims to have a commitment—faith—and assumes that on this basis they will be saved or delivered in the final judgment,…
English Style and Loss of Meaning (1 Peter 5:6–7) – Mondays with Mounce 294
Alistair Begg preached a sermon the other day on Truth for Life about 1 Peter 5:6–7. “Humble yourselves (ταπεινώθητε), therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast (ἐπιρίψαντες) all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).
His question was on the relationship between ταπεινώθητε and ἐπιρίψαντες. In the Greek, as well as the more formal equivalent translations, the answer is obvious. ἐπιρίψαντες is an adverbial participle explaining something about ταπεινώθητε; part of humbling yourself is to cast your anxiety on God. A proud person thinks that they can handle life and wants to stay in control; the humble person realizes that they can trust God to handle the anxious issues of life. So the ESV writes, “Humble yourselves…
What it means to read the General Epistles theologically
We recently sat down with Peter H. Davids to discuss what it a biblical theology of the General Epistles looks like. See his answer below.
His online course on the theology of James, Peter, and Jude is now open. Sign up today.
In James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude, we have a group of letters very heavily dependent on Jesus—especially First Peter and James. And they are showing how the teaching of Jesus was used by the first century church.
A theological study tends to draw the ideas together—what are the implications of this for the building of the whole of Christian theology?
I think a major issue in these works is that they’ve been so neglected. How does this Sermon on the Mount work in everyday life? How does the God that Jesus talked about function…
2 Crucial Lessons the Western Church Can Learn from African Christianity
Francinah was born into a family of traditional spiritual healers of African traditional religion who were strongly opposed to Christianity. In time she herself became one of these so-called sangomas.
But over the years Jesus revealed himself to her in visions, delivering her from the power of ancestral spirits, convicting her of the sin of her abortions, and commissioning her as a prophet to spread the gospel. In a radical display of obedience, she destroyed all items associated with her work as a sangoma and ancestral spirituality, and began to preach wherever she found herself.
Moss Ntlha tells this important story in his new book, Out of the Shadows of African Traditional Religion. He hopes Francinah’s story will be of help…
Is the Bible “Patriarchal”? Yes and No – An Excerpt from Gender Roles and the People of God
Patriarchy—literally, “the rule of the father,” from the Greek patriarkhēs—is any systemic structure in which men or the eldest male hold the power, particularly over women, typically within a household but also in broader society. It has been with us almost since the dawn of humanity.
But is it biblical?
Alice Mathews asks this question and more of this important topic in her new book Gender Roles and the People of God:
How are we to think about the role or place of a woman in a patriarchal system? What is this woman, created as the man’s helper, according to Genesis 2:18? Is she…merely “a loyal and suitable assistant” to a man? Is this what God intended us to learn from that text?…