Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Faith and the Processes of Reason

Becker  pp. 148-152.

Whenever and wherever the Word of God has spoken, then and there we are not to ask for additional proof or to demand a rational explanation of what has been clearly revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures.

In the theology of Martin Luther faith is never and in no way an achievement of men.  It is always in its totality a gift of God's grace.  The conviction and the confidence which is the essence of the Christian faith is not an intellectual and emotional position which a man chooses for himself and by his own powers.  It comes about not by a free decision of man's will, but according to the working of the almighty power of God.

Luther warns earnestly against faith which is a work of man.  That he calls a "manufactured faith" or a "fictional faith."  The true faith, he says,  "is a complete trust of the heart in Christ.  Such faith is kindled alone by Christ.  Whoever has it is blessed.  Whoever does not have it is damned.  Such faith also does not come out of our own preparation, but when God's Word is preached openly and clearly, then such faith and hope, such a firm confidence in Christ begins to spring up."

Luther believed that man is totally impotent in conversion and that faith is worked in man by an act of God's gracious omnipotence, without any cooperation whatever on the part of man.  It is a "divine miracle."

...In the explanation of the third article in the Small catechism he confesses,  "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him;  but the Holy Ghost has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith."

...Unbelief is therefore not due to the weakness of the intellectual capacities of the unbeliever.  Indeed, nothing is more fit to understand the words of God than a weak intellect.  ... And if we did not want to be saved until we had grasped God's promises with our reason, we would be a long, long time at this business.

...There is no greater danger in all the world than a highly gifted reason which seeks to deal with spiritual matters.  It would be easier to teach a donkey to read than to set reason right;  and while a poorly gifted man needs one teacher, a highly gifted one needs ten, as the German says "die Gelehrten die Verkehrten" (The greater the education, the greater the delusion).

...Luther's views on this matter are brought into the sharpest focus by his doctrine of the faith of infants.... Infant baptism without confidence that these infants can believe he calls blasphemy.  For his part Luther asserts emphatically that babies can have faith.  In answer to the argument that it is impossible for them to believe because they have not yet come to the age of reason he says, "Friend what does reason contribute to faith and God's Word?  It is not reason that opposes faith and God's Word in the highest degree..."

... He goes on to say that children are much better qualified for faith than adults just on this account that in them reason is still weak and not yet fully developed.  the "big head" of adults will not go through the narrow gate.

...The gospel is to lead obstinate and blind reason away from its own light into the true light, which is perceived only by faith.  Faith therefore is not the result of a rational decision on man's part.  Natural reason does not have the ability to see God, but it is the Spirit of God alone who enlightens the minds of men through the Word.

From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern
Publishing House ( All rights reserved. Reprinted with

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