David Bickel's Reviews > Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification

Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer
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it was amazing
bookshelves: christology, uses-of-law, philosophy

This explanation of the centrality of justification in Luther's theology makes timely contact with atheistic thought.

In addition, his explanation of what Lutherans call the "third use of the law" adds clarity to current discussions. Oswald Bayer not only affirms the teachings of Luther, but also the Formula of Concord on the third use of the law, i.e., that the law is to be preached to Christians and not only to unbelievers. Like the FC, Bayer does make it clear that the reason the law is to be preached to Christians is that Christians still have the sinful nature, not that the new man needs the law written on stone tablets. Bayer agrees with Luther that the response of the Christian to the law, i.e., to its condemnation, is to slay the old man by returning to baptism in repentance and faith in the gospel since the law in itself can never sanctify. Sanctification comes with justification as the sinner-saint daily hears the law and dies and rises again in baptism to walk in newness of life.

Bayer helpfully emphasizes the Large Catechism's teaching that whereas the law (summarized in the Decalogue) tells us what to do, it does not tell us how to do it. For that, we must turn to the gospel as expressed in the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Upon hearing the law, the Christian daily repents and turns to the promise of forgiveness in the means of grace. That is the only way the Christian is truly sanctified and renewed by the Spirit.

For Bayer, growth in the Christian life is received only by faith in the gospel. Baptism and the other means of grace are essential since they communicate the gospel. As Luther said so well in the Large Catechism, the Christian life consists entirely in the daily return to baptism: "a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism." In other words, "Ethical progress is only possible by returning to Baptism" (Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith, Chapter 5, Kindle location 779 of 1207).

Some other highlights (numbers are approximate Kindle locations relative to 1207, the last location):

* Those with God's passive righteousness need not concern themselves with the judgments of others as if they were the final judgment (342).

* The power of God's word can be seen in even the smallest parts of his creation (382).

* God's actions are his words to us (588).

* Believers now have eternal life by promise, not yet by something that is felt (450).

* Make your plans as if God does not exist in order to let him work secretly through the mask of means (484, 487).

* Your justification depends in no way on your success (496).

* In lament, the believer questions God regarding the apparent contradiction between his promise and the suffering, injustice, and other evil observed in the world (808). http://goo.gl/QJP3t

* Judging on the basis of that evil, human reason always comes to the conclusion that either God does not exist or, if he exists, then he is not just (901).

* According to St. Paul's letter to the Romans, if God's righteousness could be judged by the standard of human righteousness, then his righteousness would not really be divine, but merely human (970, 973).
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Reading Progress

March 21, 2012 – Shelved

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