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Monday, May 14, 2007 

Luther on Christian Hedonism
Topic: Theology

Here is a great excerpt from Luther on the nature of faith, which includes some of his thoughts on the relationship from faith to works, and the position of joy in faith. While this is of course under the category of commentary and not dogmatics, it should be taken in with his entire corpus in mind. What the Thunder Said... has written on the place of joy in faith elsewhere. Here's a post from a while back on Beza, Turretin, and Berkhof on the "treasuring" or "embracing" nature of faith.

Christian Hedonism is - for those of you unused to the term - a novel idea coined by Pastor John Piper to describe the sense in which believers are commanded to delight in the Lord, and derive their joy from Him.

So now add to those thoughts from the scholastics some more from Luther. This is from his commentary on Romans, and all highlighting for emphasis is mine.
Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream
is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by
good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they
speak and hear much about faith. ``Faith is not enough,'' they
say, ``You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.''
They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working,
creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, ``I
believe.'' That is what they think true faith is. But, because
this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything
from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this
`faith,' either.

Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives
new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us
completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits,
our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with
it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this
faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't
stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone
asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without
ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an
unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good
works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are.
Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many

Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy,joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they're smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.[1]



An excerpt from
"An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans,"
Luther's German Bible of 1522
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith
Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63
(Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125]
August 1994

This text was translated for Project Wittenberg by Rev. Robert E.
Smith and is in the public domain. You may freely distribute,
copy or print this text. Please direct any comments or
suggestions to:

Rev. Robert E. Smith
Walther Library
Concordia Theological Seminary


Surface Mail: 6600 N. Clinton St., Ft. Wayne, IN 46825 USA
Phone: (260) 481-2123 Fax: (260) 481-2126


[theology] | [Luther]

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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