Martin Luther John Calvin Pascal Essay

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Luther, Calvin, Pascal

The three main premises of Reformation theology include: 1) the sole authority of Scripture; 2) Justification by faith alone; and 3) the priesthood of the believer. These were also the three main premises that steered protestants away from the Catholic Church. In Martin Luther's text, he integrates these three elements to respond to one of the dominant theological questions of the sixteenth century, regarding how the Christian might be assured of God's favor.

In his text, for example, Luther goes to great lengths to emphasize that no outward signs of faith accomplishes anything beyond a show of faith in the eyes of people. Much like Jesus and the Apostle Paul after him, Luther notes that certain pieces of clothing or actions such as praying fasting, and abstaining from certain food types can be done by both the pious and the impious. Indeed, it appears that Luther is in accord with Jesus in his assertion that many of these "shows" of faith are for the benefit of human eyes alone and therefore hypocritical. These issues address the element of "Justification by faith alone." Justification cannot be obtained by a physical show of faith, but is rather obtained by an inner assurance of that faith.

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In this respect, the Christian who does not concern him- or herself with the appearance of faith, but rather by its inward manifestations in the soul, can also be assured of God's favor. It follows that each individual is aware of his or her motives for doing things. Loud public praying, for example, is more likely to be hypocritically motivated than a quiet inward or private prayer. Luther's viewpoint is that faith is the relationship between the individual and God rather than among human beings. Anything that is done for the benefit of showing other human beings the greatness of one's faith is therefore considered hypocritical and therefore not pleasing to God. On the other hand, truly liberating and justifying faith is more often manifest in private than in public. This ensures God's favor.

TOPIC: Essay on Martin Luther John Calvin Pascal Assignment

Luther's concern here also implies the "Priesthood of the believer." Catholic Priests act as a communication channel between God and the believer. This is a necessarily public function. Priests were also considered to be somewhat more "holy" than other people, which was visually demonstrated by the ceremonial robes they wore during church services. Luther, on the other hand, notes that no robe can enhance a person's holiness, faith, or ability to contact God. On this premise, each believer takes responsibility for his or her own faith, rather than passively leaving this in the hands of the priest.

Catholic priests would also provide believers with suggestions for action for their sins to be forgiven; something that Luther completely disagrees with. This type of priesthood therefore integrates both the ideals of "Justification by faith alone" and "Priesthood of the believer." Each believer takes responsibility for his or her own communications with God. In such a case, as Luther says, the soul is liberated by God alone; something no priest can accomplish on his behalf.

As for the "Sole authority of Scripture," Luther quotes from the Bible to support his claim that nothing but Scripture is needed for "life, justification, and Christian liberty…" the three specific texts he uses to justify this include John 11:25; John 8:36, and Matthew 4:4. These texts all concern the fact that God's word alone can provide the Christian with eternal life, liberty, and complete fulfilment.

Any Christian that therefore accepts the authority of Scripture as the sole guide for his or her ultimate salvation will therefore be the recipient of God's favor. In this way, Luther and his followers believed absolutely in the combination of faith, Scripture and personal communication with God to provide the end result of God's favor and ultimate salvation towards eternal life. Even today, these three elements are common among all Protestant denominations, regardless of other differences.

Luther asserts that faith alone can save the human soul, while works alone cannot. The role of works is, however, important, because they are a manifestation of the faith the Christian holds to be true. Indeed, although works cannot save the soul, Luther in no way justifies the opinion that Christian liberty also means liberty from the drive to lead a good life. He notes that the role of faith is instead a type of respect for the God and the Scripture that is central to the faith. The Christian is to practice Christian values as prescribed by God in gratitude for the liberty that is gained. This liberty means that the Christian no longer needs to experience anxiety as a result of the sin that is human nature. Instead, freedom from this nature can be experienced by means of the salvation offered through Jesus. Luther uses the example of husband and wife to demonstrate this view: the wife is devoted to the husband, not by force, but rather out of love and therefore by choice. In the same way the Christian lives a good life by choice and motivated by love, rather than by the force of law.

According to Luther, traditional Catholic Priests and officials offer only a "pompous display of power" based upon their own greed for control rather than a sincere drive to worship or to help others worship. In this human works have taken precedence over faith in assuring salvation for the faithful. Instead, faith is measured by works. This philosophy, in Luther's view, was perpetuated by a clergy that has become corrupt with its own power.

In contrast, those who know no better and base their salvation upon works are considered weak and even "blind." This does not mean that they are power hungry like priests and bishops, but rather that they are blinded by the goodness of works rather than by what causes those works to manifest. Luther notes that the seed of faith creates the outward appearance of works. Therefore no faithful person can help but "bear the fruit" of good works, even knowing that this outward appearance of piety is not what will ultimately save them.

In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin asserts that human wisdom must necessarily include knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of god. According to the text, only true knowledge of ourselves can result in the knowledge of God. For Calvin, the two are linked in so many different ways that they appear inseparable.

According to Calvin, no person can consider him- or herself without also considering the Creator, because it is the Creator who gave human life to begin with. Everything that is good in human life is God given. However, in this light, the contemplation of God must also reveal to the human person his or her own weaknesses. In the light of God's perfection, the human mind becomes aware of its own glaring imperfections.

In this contemplation, Calvin notes that the human mind must also consider the effects of original sin upon the separation of God from human beings, and the subsequent weaknesses of the latter. This understanding necessarily leads to unhappiness in the human heart. Still, it is by this unhappiness that the knowledge of God grows. It is by understanding his or her own weaknesses in comparison to the glory of God that the human being begins to know the extent of God's goodness. Calvin lists the feelings of "ignorance, vanity, want, weaknesses, depravity and corruption" as examples of weakness in human beings.

It is by their knowledge of the "evil things" in themselves that human beings arrive at an understanding of God's true wisdom, virtue and goodness. Calvin insists that it is only by being unhappy with ourselves that we will begin to aspire to the high level of goodness in God. True knowledge of oneself, therefore leads to a truer knowledge of God by the high level of contrast between the human and the divine. The deep sense of unhappiness with the impurity of the human self is then, according to the text, also the only motivator that will help human beings aspire to the goodness of God.

Calvin contrasts this with human beings who do not have this true knowledge of themselves. Instead of being humbled by their own weaknesses, these ignorant beings are aware of themselves only as "just, and upright, and wise, and holy." This is so until the contrast is made known by true knowledge. However, people who only contemplate themselves without considering God never become aware of the need to search for God or his wisdom, because they believe that they are pious and perfect as they are. This is their "innate pride." This occurs because, according to Calvin, we are "all naturally prone to hypocrisy." Therefore anything that poses for righteousness is accepted to be righteousness in fact. Without a true knowledge of oneself, the knowledge of God is never cultivated, and this false awareness never changes. Other human beings are the only standard to which these persons hold… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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