Sunday, August 21, 2011

...quoting Christ against Scripture

Becker deals with one more paradox, the paradox of law and gospel, which are both God's word and true and at work in the believers heart.  From here we go to the simul justus et peccator.

I will quote here, because this is a quote we discussed with Steve  not that long ago.

p. 138.

It is in the light of this distinction between law and gospel that we must understand Luther's often quoted ad almost-as-often misunderstood and misused statement, "If our adversaries quote the Scriputres against Christ, we will quote Christ against Scripture."    Those words were written in a series of theses for a disputation Romans 3:28, in which Luther tried to show that justification is by faith alone without the deeds of the law.  The adversaries had quoted the passages of Scripture in which it is stated that a man will be saved if he keeps the law.  Luther believed this too but the "if" involved here was, he knew, an impossible condition, and so he said in the Galatians commentary that if we teach the law in the hope that by it men might be justified, we have already exceeded the limits of the law.  By such a course we confuse active and passive righteousness and become "poor dialecticians," who do not rightly divide God's word.  The law passages are used correctly only when they show the need of Christ.  When they are used in such a way that they make Christ and his atoning work unnecessary, as though it is possible to be justified without his unmerited grace, then they are used against Christ.

p. 139. is impossible that the Bible should contradict itself, except in the minds of senseless and hardened hypocrites.  Among the pious and the intelligent it produces testimony for its Lord.  If you contend that Scripture contradicts itself, go manufacture your own reconciliation.  I will stay with the author of Scripture.

So the idea of "quoting Christ against Scripture" is applied within the context of a proper distinction between law and gospel, and also within the paradox of living within this simultaneously, none if which negates justification by faith in Christ alone, and is not at all saying anything to the effect that parts of scripture are contradictory or false.  Rather the paradox is upheld and scripture is never wrong.  Faith is above reason.  Scripture is true.  Justification by faith alone is true.

What is not being said by this saying is that the Bible is wrong or contradicts itself.


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


Steve Martin said...

I believe that Luther realized there were passages in Scripture that did not promote Christ but promoted the self.

Otherwise why would he publicly have had so many problems with so many books of the Bible?

Luther, knowing how God works His Word in the ordinary, had a canon within a canon. And where Christ was not promoted let those passages pass.

Again, the Lutheran view of Scripture is exactly that of the Sacraments. The finite contains the infinite.

Brigitte said...

Becker would say that there is a problem when a law passage is quoted in confusion with the law/gospel distinction and the gospel gets clouded.

Steve Martin said...

That is a problem. But I don't believe it negates the view that where Christ is promoted, there is the Word of God, and where He is not, then the Word is not present.

I think Luther said that "one would be hard pressed to find Christ in the Book of Esther."

I think Christianity could get along just fine without the Book of Esther. But it is there (in the canon) so we deal with it (mostly by not going there).

Brigitte said...

James just had a post about Luther and the book of Esther:

Brigitte said...

It was the book of Esdras he wanted to throw in the Elbe.

Steve Martin said...

OK... Esdras.

I knoe he wasn't fond of the Books of James, Revelation, Jude, and some others, as well.

If he thought that every word in those books came from Heaven with a bow tied around them, how could he have had the attitude that he did have regarding them?

Brigitte said...

The way I look at it, "Holy Scripture" is to be taken literally and accepted as God's word. Some works have always been under dispute and been thrown out a various points in time. There is a whole history to this and Luther's criticism only echos that of others before him.

Bror mentions this at various times and classifies, as others do, these books as "antilegoumena". Here is a post with various links going through this.

It's Luther's concern for the Bible and the gospel, which makes him careful as to what is considered Holy Scripture. This does not take away from the high view he has of what has always been considered Scripture.

An analogy comes to me: when someone dies you look for their last will and testament. But sometimes there are different versions of it and you have to go by the last one. So when it has been determined which is indeed the last will and testament then IT is followed to the "t". The others don't count.

Similarly, it needs to be fleshed out which books have always been considered authoritative. Those, which are authoritative should not not have this authority diminished.