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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Doctrine and Life

Are you a part of a Protestant church that privileges doctrine over life? Or that emphasizes doctrine so much that the life of the Christian seems to take a back seat? Have you ever wondered why Protestant sermons are often neatly divided between "doctrine" (or "exegesis") and "application" (that always follows the doctrine/exegesis)????

Well, I'm not sure I can give you an exhaustive answer, but I did run across a Martin Luther quote this morning that may be of interest to the discussion. This from his commentary on Galatians 5:10:

"I cannot say it often enough, that we must carefully differentiate between doctrine and life. Doctrine is a piece of heaven, life is a piece of earth. Life is sin, error, uncleanness, misery, and charity must forbear, believe, hope, and suffer all things. Forgiveness of sins must be continuous so that sin and error may not be defended and sustained. But with doctrine there must be no error, no need of pardon. There can be no comparison between doctrine and life. The least little point of doctrine is of greater importance than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot allow the least jot of doctrine to be corrupted. We may overlook the offenses and errors of life, for we daily sin much. Even the saints sin, as they themselves confess in the Lord’s Prayer and in the Creed. But our doctrine, God be praised, is pure, because all the articles of our faith are grounded on the Holy Scriptures." (emphasis mine)

Is the "least little point of doctrine" more important than heaven and earth? Also, I think it is of interest that Luther appears to resign the believer to a life of sin and misery. Dead to sin???? (Romans 6)


chris van allsburg said...

Luther was quite a catch, wasn't he? I once heard he admiited to farting as a great relief from depression & the devil. The logic is as follows: the devil is causing my depression; farting makes me happy. Therefore, farting gets rid of the devil. (Sigh). Ah, Martin. A good German.

Now his sentence says, life is sin, error...and charity must forebear, believe, hope, etc.

Maybe what he's saying is that life has both sides of the coin: the struggle w/ sin and the fruit of the spirit (charity).

Luther did wrestle w/ the idea of assurance, however...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Wrestle he did, but he was always "keepin' it real" as they say these days. There was no one saying, "Well, tell us how you really feel, Martin."

jps said...

Sad. So, his doctrine and life both were full of error and sin. Too bad. As I say so often, it's too bad that Luther never got past Romans 5!


chris van allsburg said...


Certainly, I think Martin Luther was very aware of his sin. What is really sad, is that for so many Christians today, the concept of sin is not taken seriously.

But you miss the point perhaps. When Luther says, "life is sin, error...and charity must forebear, believe, hope," etc., what is he saying except that charity, which most certainly is a part of life, contains the fruits of righteousness?

A opine that Luther is drawing a simile between earth and heaven in respective terms of life and charity, sin and righteousness.

But our live ARE full of sin, aren't they? Aren't we simultaneously saint and sinner? I guess this is Luther's point here.