Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Logical Development Of Lutheranism

“A specimen of logical development is afforded us in the history of Lutheranism as it has of late years been drawn out by various English writers. Luther started on a double basis, his dogmatic principle being contradicted by his right of private judgment, and his sacramental by his theory of justification. The sacramental element never showed signs of life; but on his death, that which he represented in his own person as a teacher, the dogmatic, gained the ascendancy; and ‘every expression of his upon controverted points became a norm for the party, which, at all times the largest, was at last coextensive with the Church itself. This almost idolatrous veneration was perhaps increased by the selection of declarations of faith, of which the substance on the whole was his, for the symbolic book of his Church’ (Pusey on German Rationalism). Next a reaction took place; private judgment was restored to the supremacy. Calixtus put reason, and Spener the so-called religion of the heart, in the place of dogmatic correctness. Pietism for the time died away; but rationalism developed in Wolf, who professed to prove all the orthodox doctrines, by a process of reasoning, from premises level with the reason. It was soon found that the instrument which Wolf had used for orthodoxy, could plausibly be used against it;—in his hands it had proved the Creed; in the hands of Semler, Ernesti, and others, it disproved the authority of Scripture. What was religion to be made to consist in now? A sort of philosophical Pietism followed; or rather Spener’s pietism and the original theory of justification were analyzed more thoroughly, and issued in various theories of Pantheism, which from the first was at the bottom of Luther’s doctrine and personal character. And this appears to be the state of Lutheranism at present, whether we view it in the philosophy of Kant, in the open infidelity of Strauss, or in the religious professions of the new Evangelical Church of Prussia. Applying this instance to the subject which it has been here brought to illustrate, I should say that the equable and orderly march and natural succession of views, by which the creed of Luther has been changed into the infidel or heretical philosophy of his present representatives, is a proof that that change is no perversion or corruption, but a faithful development of the original idea.”

-John Henry Newman in An Essay On the Development of Doctrine.

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