Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Must Saving Faith Humble?

Martin Luther
Speaking of Martin Luther, Alister McGrath, professor of theology at Oxford, wrote, "By late 1514 Luther had arrived at the fundamental insight that the proper disposition for justification is humility…God humiliates man, in order that he may justify him; he makes man a sinner, in order that he may make him righteous─and both aspects of this matter are increasingly seen by Luther as works of God."(Luther's Theology of the Cross, pg 153).

Was Luther right? Does saving faith include a fundamental humbling? Must it motivate us to admit that "God is right. I am a sinner. God is holy. I cannot make it on my own. I need God's help?"

If Luther is right, to bring people to this place we must tell them the truth. That's what Paul did. He describes his methods in Romans 1:18-3:20. First he spent several paragraphs on the wrath of God. Then he turned to the inevitability of judgment. Last, he laid out mankinds utter moral bankruptcy. Only then did he present the Good News.

What do you think? Was Luther right? Why or why not?  


  1. Firstly this verse springs to mind:

    For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:5)

    I have been reading Paul David Tripp's book "Broken-Down House" and in chapter 3 He refers to this topic as Identity Amnesia. Here is a short quote:

    We all tend to be quite adept at ignoring our own sin while being highly sensitised to the sin of others. It is hard for us to receive the loving criticism, confrontation, and rebuke or others because we tend to think of ourselves as more sanctified than we actually are. As the Bible invites us to look intently into it, as into a mirror, it invites a humbling and accurate self-assessment. The biblical doctrine of sin confronts each of us with the reality that we are not as good as we imagine we are, and therefore more needy and vulnerable than e typically consider ourselves to be. pg35

    So to answer your question. Yes I think Luther was right.

  2. Yes, I think Luther was right.

    This is a big challenge for the Western brain. When we encourage people to judge the evidence and come to the conclusion that God is real, we are still leaving them in the seat of the judge, and that is a prideful position

    God is who he is in spite of what anyone may think. He is a Truth, not a proposition.

  3. Christopher Signer8/19/10, 1:31 PM

    Having just recommitted my life to God, I found the process to be totally humbling in all ways. To think of addressing an omnipotent God, while living a sinful life which has denied, slandered, and offended Him, is to say the least, frightening. Then to imagine asking forgiveness from this all powerful God, knowing I am wholly unworthy of any redemption and totally worthy of punishment…. ‘Am I mad??’ No, solely because of the power of the cross, only a lunatic would make such a request without Jesus Christ as a divine mediator. There is no room for pride in this process; knowing my life is of no worth and only Christ can give it worth (any claim to knowledge may seem to be a point of pride, but I only know what has been revealed to me.)

  4. I agree. I constantly tell my people that justification by faith alone, according to God's grace alone, in Christ alone, for His glory alone, is the most humilating truth for mankind. It kills all pride.

  5. Chris Frick8/22/10, 6:09 PM

    I think Luther is perfectly right. What a God that He stoops to save spiritually dead sinners.
    One aspect of God humbling that has struck me recently is thinking about Jews during the period of Acts. They had to accept the fact that to be saved they had to admit that they missed the Messiah for whom they had been waiting: to be right with God they had to admit that they got their religion totally wrong.