This is the essay for the 2nd week of the Tom Woods Homeschool Western Civilization 2 course. In this blog post, I will be discussing two things:
1. Luther’s main points from On the Freedom of a Christian.
2. Calvin’s main points in the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
In Martin Luther’s book “On the Freedom of a Christian”, he states that justification can be achieved by faith alone. Justification is when God declares or makes you go from a state of sin to a state of righteousness. The “faith alone” part of the sentence means that you don’t have to create any works, or endure punishments to achieve the state of righteousness, all you have to do is have faith in God. Luther justifies this by saying that the laws mentioned in the Old Testament are examples of what a perfect person would look like. Humans can’t achieve this perfection and that’s why they have faith in God.
As an additional point, Luther says that since the laws in the Old Testament can’t be achieved, they don’t need to be followed either. For example a law, such as, you should not want to possess a material good, doesn’t have to be followed. Luther is not saying you should lead an immoral life and break these laws as much as you want, he is only saying that you don’t need to follow the laws to receive justification.
How do you have faith in God, then? Luther says that since faith in God grants them righteousness, then faith is a person believing that God is righteous and trustworthy. He also says that because trustworthiness and belief are the highest glories you can give someone, there isn’t a greater insult than not believing someone.
Luther says that marriage is a good thing that shouldn’t be prevented. This is because he says that the last benefit of faith in God is that it unites your soul with Jesus Christ. The soul and Christ share their positives and negatives. The soul receives Christ’s grace and other benefits and Christ receives the soul’s benefits and sins. The sin that is shared is treated as their own and they have to deal with it. Luckily, Christ’s grace can beat any sin imaginable.
John Calvin is a French theologian who started the belief in Calvinism. Calvinism is off-shoot of Protestantism. There are several differences between the two, but the one I’m going to be focusing on is on the subject of predestination. Predestination is the belief that when someone is born, God chooses where the person will go after death. Lutheranism states that God can only choose who goes to heaven, but he can’t choose who goes to hell, which the people decide. Calvinism on the other hand, states that God chooses who goes to Heaven AND Hell.
Calvin’s book Institutes of the Christian Religion is the work that is referred to for disputes in the Calvinist doctrine. It details all the important points in Calvinism, including predestination. First Calvin reiterates Luther’s point that salvation comes from faith alone. He says this is because God doesn’t give everyone his faith in the hope that they create salvation, but instead God predestines some people to heaven, which he gives faith, and others he has predestined to hell, which he doesn’t give faith. Calvin says that this has been proven because someone who has had their faith extinguished by the lies of wicked outside forces would still go to heaven, no matter how little of that original faith remained.