"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."

- Martin Luther

Luther's Rose

I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.


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Reason's Indigestion ~ Day 8

Today we shall look at Luther's fifth thesis in the Heidelberg Disputation, which states:

The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.

Oops! It seems I did thesis six before doing thesis five, and subsequently labeled it thesis five as well. Please note the correct order (which makes more sense) when reading through these articles.

Anyway, onto thesis five! Both this thesis, and thesis six are once again inverse reflections of each other. Thesis five basically states that from our perspective, when we speak of any “good works” of man in any active sense being evil, we do not mean that they are abhorrent crimes such as murder, theft, adultery, etc. We, from our terrestrial perspective can easily see a difference in acts that seem altruistic and beneficial for many, versus acts that seem selfish and only beneficial to the criminal, so to speak.

However, when contrasted with thesis six, we find that when God works through us, the deed in appearance may seem to be good, for certainly nothing but good comes from God, and to our senses we can easily perceive and comprehend this, yet the acts is, nevertheless, not a sinless act for man, because man, even after his salvation and renewal in Christ can only sin in an active capacity, and consequently, regardless of the acts appearance, good or bad, is still nothing but sin as far as mans involvement is concerned. For further clarification on thesis six please read this article.

Committing crimes is simply man violating the laws of his land or what is simply accepted as common decency. Now, that is not to say that they do not come from God, for the laws of man derive themselves from the Law of God as written in his heart. This use of the Law of God, at least according to Lutheran theology, is what is know as the “curb”, or the second use of the Law. That is, the Law of God as written on the hearts of all men bearing witness that it is good for him to live in civility with his neighbor, and the best way for that to happen is for man to obey his conscience in outward actions so as to achieve the best outcome for all. This is what some would call altruism, and this thought is common or “common sense” to all civil people.

However, what makes a sin mortal is not necessarily what is so obvious. Here is what Luther has to say about it in the proof for this thesis, he states:

“For crimes are such acts which can also be condemned before men, such as adultery, theft, homicide, slander, etc. Mortal sins, on the other hand, are those which seem good yet are essentially fruits of a bad root and a bad tree. Augustine states this in the fourth book of Against Julian (Contra Julianum).”

What Luther is saying is that crimes are something which are obviously wrong, for it is just as easy for one man to see and understand a crime or evil deed than another man. However, here Luther introduces what makes a sin mortal. What does make a sin lead unto death? I bet it's not what you think.

St. Paul says in Roman 7:5,6:

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

As Luther stated, “For crimes are such acts which can also be condemned before men,...”, which is in full agreement with Paul in regards to the Law awakening evil desires in us, and this basically means we know what's obviously wrong, which causes us to repent, that is unless our heart is hardened, with little to no resistance. What makes sin a sin is obvious, however, what about sins that are not so obvious? According to Luther (which is affirmed by God's word through Christ and his condemnation of the Pharisees) good works are also sin, and not just sin, but a deceptive sin, the type of sin the devil loves to tempt us with, because we can so easily fall into it and are so blind to what a “good work”, at least from the human perspective, actually is.

The evil that is awakened in the heart by God's Law is not always one which lusts after that which it cannot have, but lusts for a righteousness other than the one provided for us in Christ, the only righteousness our Father wants us to have or will accept for that matter. When our hearts accuse us of our sinfulness by God's Law, we, in turn, respond with a “will” to make ourselves right naturally with God. Yet, the only thing we can will in our life on earth in any active capacity is sin, so even our righteousness which we attempt to flaunt before God, is really us attempting to wave our filthy rags at him. This type of sinning is compounding sin upon sin making us doubly guilty. This is nothing but an abomination in his sight, for the moment we do this, we are very far from what God actually wants for us, and far from a saving faith.

So, what does He want for us? Well, He wants nothing for us to do, but wants us to believe much in His Son who has done everything for us already. You see, Christ died on the cross in our place atoning for our sins, and has made available his righteousness to be our own possession made available through faith in Him and His atoning work. However, this line of thinking is antithetical to our natural reason, for we trust only ourselves and our reason most certainly, and to give credence to something greater than ourselves is an abomination to us, but we must surrender this stubborn tendency within us and let the Lord of Lords reign supreme in our hearts in hopes of gaining the life everlasting!