Luther On Vocatio: Ordinary Life For Ordinary Saints -- By: Steven A. Hein
RAR 8:1 (Winter 1999) p. 121
Luther On Vocatio: Ordinary Life For Ordinary Saints
When all was said and done by Luther concerning how his theology of the cross would render the believer living in the world sola fide, the saints of God ended up appearing very ordinary in the eyes of the world. His depiction of faith faithfully going to work in the world presented the Christian with a regimen for life that looks rather indistinguishable from would-be citizens of the kingdom of the Devil. For Luther, saving faith is called to exercise a life of faithfulness that when compared with much of western Christian thinking before the Reformation, is decidedly worldly and mundane in its appearance. He urged the Christian to leave behind the exercises of monastic life, pilgrimages, eucharistic parades, and various acts of pious self-denial in a struggle for holiness. The righteousness of Christ shall be your holiness already accomplished and bestowed. Therefore, the Christian is directed to channel his efforts at faithful living toward meeting the ordinary temporal needs of his neighbors—those whom he meets where all commonly live, work and play. Such a life of faith certainly rendered the Christian rather unidentifiable in general society. Indeed for Luther, the good pious Christian called to live in the cross of Christ is, and remains in this life a bit of a phantom, a sociological uncertainty—indistinguishable from the average citizens of this world. The character of godliness and piety that Luther advocated
RAR 8:1 (Winter 1999) p. 122
involves the call to a life of faith and faithfulness with a distinctive worldly accent.
The law, however, is only God’s
preliminary word—His provisional
judgment, not His final judgment. God’s
judgment of grace is His final verdict and
it alone pronounces the permanent truth of
the Christian’s identity that sets us all free.
Luther maintained that the life for the individual believer expresses who and what one is as addressed by God’s judgments in His law and gospel. As such, the Christian is, as Luther paradoxically maintained, “righteous and beloved of God, yet he is a sinner at the same time.”1 Let’s examine this more closely. As the Christian lives in the flesh, he stands under the judgment of law as a sinner. The law presents all sinners in this life both security and peril. Outwardly, the law presents this fallen world with the security of social orders—the old creation structures of community by which temporal life is ordered. Moreover, a reasonable civil application of the law provides a modicum of temporal security for peaceable relations in the social orders of the w...
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