Justification and Deification in the Dialogue Between the Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremias II


A Research Report Submitted to Dr. Alan W. Borcherding
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Sacred Theology Credit
‘The Methodology of Systematic Theology’ (Fall 1993)

Revised and Expanded for Presentation
To the Faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary

By
D. Richard Stuckwisch

Fort Wayne, Indiana
The Week of Judica 1994



1. Introduction

Dialogues between Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox are nothing new; they began as early as the 16th century.1 It was already then, in the twilight of the Reformation, that the Church of the Augsburg Confession began reaching out the hand of tentative fellowship to the Church of the Ecumenical Councils.2 After all, the Papacy was not the only show in town; Christendom had not been a monolithic body since long before the Ninety-Five Theses. And if Wittenberg could not be reconciled to Rome, nor united with Geneva, there yet remained Constantinople. The Lutherans and the Orthodox were both considered schismatic by Rome, and if nothing else, “condemnation from the same source gave the Evangelicals and the Eastern Orthodox a certain feeling of kinship.”3 Significantly, the leading participants in the 16th-century dialogue included Jakob Andreae, the Chancellor of the University of Tübingen in the duchy of Würtemberg,4 and Patriarch Jeremias II of Constantinople.5

It is common practice to acknowledge this 16th-century dialogue in the context of modern ecumenical efforts between Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox, due to the historical importance of that first dialogue. Thus, for example, in consultations leading to the Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue in North America, Archbishop Iakovos stated to representatives of the National Lutheran Council,

The 16th century correspondence between the Tübingen theologians and Patriarch Jeremias II is “unfinished business.” We should move on from there with studies of the Nicene Creed, the Councils, and the Augsburg Confession, and especially with the doctrine of the Church.6

The dialogue between Tübingen and Constantinople was especially significant for a number of reasons. To begin with, it was the first attempt at dialogue between the Lutheran West and the Orthodox East.7 Second, the theological discussion was both forthright and detailed, while at the same time transcending “the polemical and vituperative exchange of ideas which characterizes most Protestant and Roman Catholic writings of this period” (Jorgenson: 2-3). Furthermore, in addition to Andreae himself -- a major contributor to the Formula of Concord -- the dialogue also included the participation of several other prominent Lutherans.8 “With the assistance of a broad circle of theologians, the Lutheran responses which follow [the first reply of Jeremias] transcend the level of private correspondence over doctrinal issues and approach the status of a confession of faith of the Church of Württemberg” (Jorgenson: 130).

[The dialogue] reminds English-speaking Lutherans that the sixteenth-century church of the Augsburg Confession was self-consciously “catholic,” that is, that it was indeed scriptural, but also sacramental, historical, conciliar, and patristic. It is also significant that Jacob Andreae was a moving force behind this correspondence at the same time as he was working vigorously to achieve consensus within the Lutheran church, culminating in the adoption of the Formula of Concord (1577).9

Finally, the dialogue is significant because a certain “symbolical” status has been given to the replies of the Patriarch. His answers to the Lutherans “are considered the last Byzantine patristic presentation of the Eastern Orthodox Church to be succeeded by the scholastic method.”10

In addition to their citation of the 16th-century correspondence between Tübingen and Constantinople, recent dialogues between Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox have highlighted the comparison-contrast between Justification and “Deification” (Theosis).11 For example, dialogues between the Evangelical Church in Germany in the Federal Republic and the Russian Orthodox Church, beginning in 1959, encountered a recurring theme that involved “the problems of justification and sanctification.”12 Likewise, dialogues between the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church, beginning in 1970, have emphasized the theme Salvation as justification and deification.13 Most recently, dialogues in the U.S.A., which first began in 1967 and then commenced again in 1983, have lately focused almost entirely on the relationship of Justification to Deification within the general topic of Salvation in Christ.14 A note of optimism is common in these dialogues.15 But in the 16th century, the same issues concerning the natures of salvation were a significant obstacle between Jeremias and the Lutherans. It will be helpful, then, to have in mind a comprehensive description of the Eastern Orthodox concept of Deification.

The Western Church has often accused the East of betraying the Biblical faith of Christendom “in favor of a vague platonizing form of pantheism.” Nowhere has this accusation been more common than in the case of Deification.16 Nevertheless, although the term Theosis was adopted from a Neoplatonic religious vocabulary, the late John Meyendorff insists that the content of Deification is thoroughly Christological and Theocentric.

Deification reflects the paradoxical Johannine affirmation that the “Word was God” and that it “became flesh” (John 1:1,14), so that created human beings might not boast in the face of God in their “fleshly” nature, but be “in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:29-30), members of His Body, anticipating the eschatological fulfillment when God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). (Meyendorff, “Theosis”: 471)

Thus, Deification “reflects the experience of Christ’s divinity.” God became man, and the Son of God assumed human mortality, so that by His life, death and Resurrection He might become the first of a new, deified humanity. He is the New Adam -- the Forerunner, the Trailblazer, the Firstborn of mankind in communion with God. (Meyendorff, “Theosis”: 471)

“In the Orthodox understanding Christianity signifies not merely an adherence to certain dogmas, not merely an exterior imitation of Christ through moral effort, but direct union with the living God, the total transformation of the human person by divine grace and glory -- what the Greek fathers termed ‘deification’...(theosis).” The most important Scriptural foundation for this doctrine of Deification is ii Peter 1:3-4, but passages with similar connotations are also considered, e.g., Psalm 82:6, John 14:17, Romans 8:11, i John 3:2, etc. “Salvation is understood to mean ‘participation’ or ‘sharing’ or ‘fellowship’ with God, or ‘indwelling’ in the words of the Gospel of John.” Salvation as Deification does not imply that created human beings “become God” in a pantheistic sense. On the contrary, Deification takes place when believers “let God be God” for them, that is, when they “enter into a personal relationship with God through Baptism and participate fully in God’s life through the sacraments in the church, the body of Christ.” (Salvation: 19-20).

In the history of Byzantine theology, Deification was consistently understood as the goal of man, a “natural destiny” that is reached only through the grace of God. As such, it is the “exaltation of nature, not its destruction or alteration.” This goal of Deification is the process of becoming “as much as possible like and in union with God” -- a “participation through grace in that which surrounds the nature of God.” It was realized perfectly and fully in the Incarnation of the Son of God, in Whom “generic” human nature was deified. This nature of man had been established in the Creation for communion with God, but it was “darkened by its existential condition subsequent to Adam’s sin.” Deification is the restoration of the intended communion between God and man, beginning with the human life and death of Christ. Thus, Deification describes the Eastern understanding of salvation in Christ. It lies behind the Christology of Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, Cyril of Alexandria, John of Damascus, etc. “God became man, that man might become divine.” At the Council of Nicaea, the confession of the Son as homoousios with the Father ensured that fellowship with Christ must be understood as communion with God, i.e., as Deification. Likewise, at the Council of Constantinople, the confession of the Holy Spirit as divine was also required, since “deification of man as sanctification is rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit.” If the Spirit was not true God, then “man would be neither sanctified nor deified.”17

The concept of Deification was eventually articulated most precisely by Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth century. His attitude toward “natural theology,” his particular understanding of nature and grace, and his distinctions between the divine essence and energy, etc., all were endorsed by the Orthodox Church and are of prime importance for understanding Deification. Some comments on his theology will therefore serve as a final introduction to this Eastern doctrine.18

Gregory’s development of the doctrine of Deification initially came in response to Barlaam, the well-known “Calabrian philosopher,” who represented a new wave of Eastern humanism that tended to prefer ancient Greek philosophy to Christian faith as a means of approaching (but never fully knowing) ultimate truth. Barlaam emphasized the transcendence of God and the inability of man to know anything outside of his sensory perception. Whatever could be known of God, could only be known by analogy.

Gregory responded to Barlaam that Deification -- as a communion with God -- is the only acceptable means of Christian “epistemology.” It is true, he readily admitted, that man can learn something of God from the natural world, and that “knowledge and profane science” can be useful in their proper place. However, true knowledge of God -- which is possible -- is possible only through divine grace. Furthermore, while the “knowledge” acquired through nature adds nothing to salvation, the “knowledge” acquired through grace is absolutely necessary for salvation.

“God created Adam,” writes Palamas, “in his own image and likeness...and introduced no evil disposition into him; rather, with the soul that he breathed into him, he also gave him the divine grace of the Spirit to preserve him in his first state and confer on him the (divine) likeness.” By thus taking up again the Patristic conception according to which “nature” does not possess an autonomous existence, but supposes grace and communion with God, in order to fulfil its own true destiny, Palamas affirms that the likeness too is an effect of grace while presupposing the collaboration (synergia) of man: hence man needs God to attain the likeness, but God can only give what man accepts.... Essentially, therefore, nature supposes grace, and grace means participation in divine life. But the sin committed by man separated him from this grace, and left man alone with all the insufficiencies of his created nature. (Meyendorff, Palamas: 121)

“Nature” is for Gregory not a “static conception, but must always be considered in one or the other of its existential states.” Prior to the Fall, nature existed in a state that implied life with God; “this was essentially the ‘natural’ state of nature.” After the Fall, deprived of life with God on account of sin and disobedience, nature is forced “to rely on its own powers alone, a condition basically contrary to its destiny, and involving death” (Meyendorff, Palamas: 122). The restoration of life, and therefore of nature to its own proper state, takes place in Deification, when God by His grace (through Baptism and Eucharist) returns man to communion with Himself in Christ.

The essential peculiarity of Palamas’s thought is that for him “nature” and “grace” mean dynamic and living realities: as before the Fall human nature was in dynamic union with God, for that was its true destiny willed by the Creator, so, after Adam’s sin, the absence of such a relation characterized his state through subjection to the Devil and mortality resulting therefrom.... [Gregory is always] defending communion with the living God as the only means of salvation for men, and combating the conception of salvation as an extrinsic justification which leaves man to live independently of God outside the “supernatural.” That was not God’s plan for man, and it was not for that that the Son of God put on flesh and clothed himself in a nature altogether similar to our own; He “became man that we might become God.” Grace is therefore not a “thing” which God grants to nature either to “complete” its deficiencies, or simply to “justify” it, or to “add” to it a created supernatural, but it is the divine life itself. It was to live in communion with him that he created us, and it is because we abandoned him that we are subject to corruption and death from which baptism delivers us. (Meyendorff, Palamas: 163-164)

Because Palamas views grace and nature as dynamic and living realities -- and salvation as a living communion with God in Christ -- there can be nothing less than “synergy” between God and man in salvation by grace. Whereas the West treats salvation as being rescued from something, Gregory and the Eastern Orthodox tradition view salvation as an active participation in the divine life. Thus, for Gregory, good works are not done to earn or merit salvation; they are themselves an expression of the salvation itself, a concrete living of the divine life already here on earth.

Nevertheless, Palamas views the participation of man with God as happening sola gratia; that is, “it is not by their own efforts that Christians become ‘eternal’ and ‘uncreated’; it is the divine life, which they only possess through grace, which gives them that character.” Men become “gods,” but only through grace and not through nature. Man “gratuitously acquires a condition fundamentally foreign to that of nature, and that condition is the divine life.” Though man’s proper state of nature is the life with God, even prior to the Fall this communion with the divine was “supernatural” -- a gift from God. Man is never “divine” in and of himself; he only becomes “divine” through a participation in the One Who is alone divine by nature. (Meyendorff, Palamas: 177-178)

In his development of the doctrine of Deification, it was also necessary for Gregory to articulate and clarify a distinction between God’s essence and His energy. By doing so, he was able to preserve the transcendence of God -- which Barlaam so insisted upon -- while also supporting the participation of man with God in Christ. He showed that there is a real distinction in God between essence and energy; yet, both are uncreated. This distinction does not introduce any “complexity” in God, since it is not a question of two essential realities; both the essence and the energy belong to the one God. But while the essence remains incommunicable (outside of the Godhead), there is a “real and existential revelation of the divine life or energy” (Meyendorff, Palamas: 98). Gregory was able to make such a distinction, because Eastern theology identifies the source of the Godhead hypostatically, in the Person of the Father, instead of in the abstract “divine Essence.” The essence and the energy of God each has its source in the concrete reality of Father, Son, and Spirit. Thus, God remains transcendent in His essence, even while man is deified in Christ through communion with the divine energy, which Gregory identifies with the grace of God.

Two centuries after Gregory Palamas, his Orthodox doctrine of Deification came into conflict with the doctrine of Justification, at the heart of the 16th-century dialogue between the theologians of Tübingen and the Patriarch of Constantinople. “Thus the first literary contact in the sixteenth century between the Churches of the Augsburg Confession and the Eastern Orthodox Church may be most correctly and aptly considered a confrontation between a theology of justification and a theology of salvation” (Jorgenson: 163). The nature of this confrontation was complex, but it may be described simply, insofar as it was perceived by the participants, as follows:

The Lutherans taught that justification is wrought by faith alone, and not by faith and good works; but they emphatically stated that good works are indispensable as fruits of the life-giving faith. According to Jeremiah, good works contribute to justification, although they are not in themselves absolutely worthy of salvation; and, therefore, salvation does not depend upon them, but mainly in faith in God. (A&C:21)

Hence, the focus of our study will be the understanding of Justification and Deification in the dialogue between the Tübingen theologians and Patriarch Jeremias II.


2. The Broad Historical Background of the Dialogue


2.1. Early Lutheran Interest in the Greek Orthodox Church

The Lutheran Reformers were certainly aware of the Orthodox Church, and they had some knowledge of its teachings on the basis of the Eastern Church Fathers, but they were largely ignorant of the prevailing situation in the Greek Church of their day “because of the conquest of Greece and surrounding countries by the Ottoman Empire from 1453 with the fall of the Byzantine Empire” (A&C: 9-10). Nevertheless, on the basis of what they did know, “a common opposition to what they regarded as papal pretensions led the Protestant Reformers to make use of Eastern Christianity for propaganda and polemics.”19 One striking example of such tactics is provided by Luther’s debate with Eck at Leipzig in 1519.

After Luther pointed out that the Greek Church had never recognized any papal supremacy, Eck responded that the Greek Church was not only schismatic but, by rejecting the Roman primacy, had made itself heretical; the Greeks had “severed themselves from the Church and from the Christian faith itself.” Such a radical claim was simply too much for Luther, who shot back in typical fashion “that the thousands of martyrs and saints from the Greek Church even to the present day obviously refute that calumny” (Jorgenson: 8). The description of Luther’s continued response on the next day of the debate is priceless.

Luther recalled the numerous writers of the Greek Church, which has produced more and better theologians than any other part of the Church. Eck retorted that all the early Fathers acknowledged Roman primacy, but out of pride and jealousy the later Greeks repudiated Rome. The Greeks lost both the faith and the empire, for the taking of Constantinople by the Turks was divine chastisement for their schism and heresies. Luther was surprised to hear Eck identify the faith with earthly power. Have, therefore, the gates of hell prevailed against the Church? If Roman primacy is jure divino, then all the bishops of Constantinople and Alexandria, all the great Fathers, Basil, Gregory Nazienzen, and others -- who never heard of this teaching -- are damned as heretics. Will the pope and his followers now evict them from heaven? (Jorgenson: 8-9)

A year later, Luther “declared that ‘Muscovites, White Russians, Greeks, Bohemians, and many other great lands in the world...believe as we do, baptize as we do, preach as we do, live as we do.’” (Pelikan: 281).

Melanchthon, likewise, was interested in the Greek Church. However, that which “had been only a polemical intuition in Luther became a more substantial ecumenical overture in his colleague, Philip Melanchthon” (Pelikan: 281). The humanist Melanchthon was uniquely suited for such ventures on account of his love for and knowledge of the Greek patristic tradition. In many of his writings, including the Augsburg Confession and especially its Apology, as well as in his Loci Communes, Melanchthon was a master of citations from the Church Fathers: Irenaeus, Cyprian, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazienzen, John Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, Augustine, Cyril, Epiphanius, et al.

Melanchthon’s reverence for the Fathers, his knowledge of the councils and church history, his cry ad fontes! are manifestations of a universal leit motif in all his writings: his conviction that the Church of the Reformation is not an innovation, a distortion, or a sect -- but, on the contrary, it is a return to and a direct continuation of the life and beliefs of the ancient, undivided Church. The nod of the Eastern Church to this affirmation would have been a sensational victory. (Jorgenson: 16)

The opportunity came for Melanchthon to approach the Eastern Church when he received into his home in the summer of 1559 a Serbian deacon from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This deacon, Demetrios Myros, remained for about six months with Melanchthon in Wittenberg, where he learned first-hand information about the Reformation and the Lutheran Church. He, in turn, was able to acquaint Melanchthon with the piety and ethos of the Orthodox Church. (cf. Korte: 55ff.).


2.2. The Genesis of the Augustana Graeca

It was during the stay of Demetrios as the house-guest of Melanchthon that the Greek version of the Augsburg Confession, the Augustana Graeca, was produced. It was published that same year (1559) in Basel, under the name of Paul Dolscius; in the preface, likewise, Dolscius writes of his motivation for making the translation. Nevertheless, the true author was almost certainly Melanchthon himself, who by that point might well have wanted to avoid any publicity of further “ecumenical” efforts. He had already raised suspicions by his irenic relations and compromises with both Roman Catholics and Calvinists. In any case, the Augustana Graeca is rightly called a “version” and not a “translation” of the Augsburg Confession, since it is a radical paraphrasing and in some places a thorough reworking of the official Confession.20 Only Melanchthon himself, the original author of the Augsburg Confession, who had written numerous editions over the years, would have dared to produce such a loose rendering of the document in Greek.21 Dolscius, therefore, betrays the camouflage when he writes in his preface about “the strict accuracy of his translation” (!), a lie that any first-year student of Greek would readily have detected. Martin Crusius, the leading humanist at Tübingen, certainly knew the truth, and at one point he indicates that, while the Augustana Graeca was edited under the name of Dolscius, it was actually composed by Philip Melanchthon.22

Apparently, the explicit purpose of Melanchthon’s rendition of the Augustana in Greek was to establish a theological contact with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Josaph II. Melanchthon sent the Augustana Graeca and a cover letter for the Patriarch with Demetrius when the Serbian deacon left Wittenberg. These were “dispatched to the patriarch of Constantinople with the hope expressed by Melanchthon...that [the Augustana Graeca] would be found to be in conformity with ‘the Holy Scriptures, both prophetic and apostolic, and the dogmatic canons of the holy councils and the doctrine of your fathers.’” (Pelikan: 281).

Scholars are divided as to what happened after Demetrius left Wittenberg. In one view, Demetrius was sidetracked on his way to Constantinople. Passing through his native Serbia, he remained to assist in a Christian reformation of Wallachia (in modern Romania), which had recently been recaptured from the Turks. There is where he died, and the documents he carried from Melanchthon to the Patriarch never reached their destination. (cf. Korte: 55-56). Another view maintains that Demetrius returned to Constantinople and delivered Melanchthon’s letter and the Augustana Graeca as planned. When Patriarch Josaph II examined the Lutheran Confession, he immediately recognized that many of its distinctive doctrines were at odds with the Orthodox Church. To avoid the risk of controversy with the German Lutherans, and thereby thwart the Sultan’s political relations with the Protestant States, the Patriarch simply declined to respond -- fairly typical of Byzantine diplomacy. It was only after several months of waiting that Demetrius found his way to Wallachia.23 Regardless of the precise circumstances, the efforts of Melanchthon proved fruitless.


2.3. The Beginning of the Dialogue between Tübingen and Constantinople

Fifteen years after Melanchthon’s failed attempt to approach the Patriarch of Constantinople, the course of history permitted a successful second attempt, this time by the theologians of the University of Tübingen.24 The opportunity for this second attempt was not the visit of a deacon from Constantinople, but the presence of a Lutheran Ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian II, in Constantinople.

Ambassador David Ungnad, who served as ambassador from 1572-1578, was “a pious Lutheran who had studied law at the University of Tübingen.” Thus, when he decided to send for a Lutheran chaplain for the embassy in Constantinople, he turned to his alma mater. “The Tübingen faculty perceived the possible ecumenical importance of the imperial embassy and its chaplain,” and so they sent Stephen Gerlach, “one of their most promising recent graduates” (Jorgenson: 58).25

Martin Crusius, the Tübingen professor of classical languages, took advantage of the favorable occasion of the German Lutheran presence in Constantinople. The original initiative was ostensibly humanistic rather than theological. Crusius, as the greatest living classicist in Europe, sincerely wanted to compare classical Greek with its modern linguistic descendant. He had the amazing ability and peculiar habit of translating simultaneously into Greek the Sunday sermon preached in the foundation church of Tübingen. Thus, when Gerlach was commissioned as court preacher and dispatched to the imperial embassy in Constantinople on April 8, 1573, he was given three documents: a letter of recommendation from Andreae and a letter of friendly greetings from Crusius, plus the content of a sermon on the Good Shepherd which had been preached by Andreae on the previous Sunday. (Jorgenson: 62-63)

Soon afterwards, a second sermon of Andreae, again translated into Greek by Crusius, was also sent to the Patriarch in Constantinople. The two sermons were the spark that moved the correspondence from a largely humanistic inquiry to a theological dialogue. For when Patriarch Jeremias II did respond less than enthusiastically -- perhaps misunderstanding the intent of the sermons -- the Tübingen theologians dispatched Melanchthon’s Augustana Graeca to Constantinople. Upon receiving the Greek Confession, the Patriarch requested five more copies and promised to provide a point-by-point response to the document. This whole process took some time, but the first doctrinal response of Jeremias to the Augustana Graeca was received at Tübingen on 18 June 1576. Genuine “dialogue” had begun.26

Ironically, the Lutheran publication of the entire correspondence, in parallel Greek and Latin, in the Acta et Scripta Theologorum Wirtembergensium et Patriarchae Constantinopolitani D. Hieremiae (Wittenberg, 1584), was prompted by the interference of Roman Catholics who were able to obtain a copy of the Patriarch’s first response (in which he is critical of many of the uniquely Reformation-based doctrines and principles). The Roman Catholic polemicists tried to embarrass the Lutherans by claiming that they had sought support for their views from the Patriarch, and that he had shot them down. The Lutherans published the correspondence to refute these allegations, to demonstrate that they were not at all in doubt as to their doctrine, and to show that as far as they were concerned, the dialogues had only served to indicate the superiority of their Lutheran position. (cf. Jorgenson: 98-100).


2.4. Initial Goals on the Part of the Lutherans

Why did the Lutherans pursue a theological dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox? While they clearly were not interested in “proving” to themselves (or to anyone else) the veracity of their doctrine, they surely would have welcomed an Eastern affirmation of Lutheran orthodoxy and catholicity. There was also a genuine desire for unity and fellowship, if possible, and the Lutherans were initially optimistic in this respect. This very hope is beautifully expressed in the letter from Andreae which accompanied the Augustana Graeca. He writes,

If the merciful Heavenly Father, through His beloved Son, the sole Savior of us all, would so direct us on both sides so that even though we are greatly separated as far as the places where we live are concerned, we become close to one another in our agreement on the correct teaching and the cities of Constantine and Tübingen become bound to each other by the bond of the same Christian faith and love, there is no event that we should desire more. (A&C: 29)

With not only the controversies vis-á-vis Rome and Geneva but also the internal divisions within the folds of Lutheranism raging in the West, it can easily be understood that the Tübingen theologians would be hopeful of unity with the East.

Finally, there is a sense in which the dialogue is an expression of the Lutheran attitude of mission to the world and of connectedness to the church throughout the world. The theologians of Tübingen surely would have confessed with Luther that they were beggars before God; this is true. But in their dialogue with the East, they were not begging anything but the truth of the Gospel.


3. A Brief Theological Survey of the Dialogue


3.1. Methodology and the Issue of Authority

Unquestioning loyalty to the Fathers of the Church was a common attribute of Eastern theologians. Everyone acknowledged that just as God Himself is changeless, so also is the truth of salvation changeless. This truth was generally understood as the story as well as the means of Deification. The Word of God and the Mysteries of the Church each communicate both knowledge of this divine truth and Deification itself. Knowledge and Deification are thus closely tied together, and orthodoxy as such is a matter of soteriological importance. Doctrine is divinely revealed and changeless; heretics are “innovators.”

To those who were faithful, there could be no distinction within the tradition between those things that were primary and those that were secondary, between what was to be respected more and what less; for the doctrine had come from the fathers and was to be revered. This was the ancient and changeless faith of the church. (Pelikan: 16)

The reference here to a “tradition” that “was to be revered” raises the ever-present first task of theology, namely, to identify the norms of doctrine. Particularly in the East, these norms were identified with Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and the Ecumenical Councils, in that order, but standing in a special relationship to each other. Everyone recognized that Scripture is uniquely the source of divine revelation; but since even the heretics appealed to the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand them according to an orthodox interpretation. This interpretation is spiritual, symbolic, Sacramental, and typological, and it was provided by the Fathers of the Church. The Fathers differ from the Apostles by degree but not by kind; they are the “lampstand of the Church” from which the “lamp of Scripture” is able to shine (Pelikan: 18). Thus, the Fathers are the norm of traditional doctrine and the standard of orthodoxy. Of course, not all of the Fathers spoke in the same manner or even on the same topics; other ancient theologians simply were not orthodox. Thus, the Ecumenical Councils provide the medium of doctrinal illumination. They articulate properly the consensus of the Fathers in their various interpretations of Scripture.

One can readily imagine how this Eastern understanding of “Holy Tradition” might be received by Lutheran sensibilities. And in fact, the issue of “Scripture vs. Tradition” is often cited as main point of contention in the dialogue of the 16th century. The Lutheran insistence on sola Scriptura had already been met with the principle of “two sources” of doctrine -- Scripture plus tradition -- by the Council of Trent. What the Lutherans of Tübingen heard from Constantinople sounded very much the same. (cf. Jorgenson: 108).

Nevertheless, the fundamental issue was not a matter of deciding between Scripture or tradition; it was a question of authority, and of the relative weight alloted to Scripture and tradition.27 (cf. Jorgenson: 115). (cf. A&C: 102, 110, 111, 113, 210, 216, 218-219, 223, 313).

The methodological approach of both the Lutherans and Patriarch Jeremias was essentially the same: arguments from Scripture, coupled with citations from the Church Fathers. The key difference was the insistence of the Lutherans that Scripture alone is determinative and that the Fathers are at best a secondary witness, whereas for Jeremias the Fathers are by all means necessary for the proper use of Scripture. (cf. Jorgenson: 112, 249).


3.2. Points of Agreement

In spite of their differences in approaching the source of authority in theology, there were many beliefs held in common by Patriarch Jeremias and the Lutherans of Tübingen, including some of the most vital beliefs of the Christian faith. For example, they basically agreed on the following: The truth and inspiration of the Scriptures; the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; original sin and its inheritance by all men; the source of evil in creatures and not in God; the two natures of Christ hypostatically united in a single Person; Jesus Christ as Head of the Church; the Second Coming of Christ in the final judgment; the doctrine of eschatology, including a future life of either endless reward or endless punishment; the distribution of the Eucharist to the faithful under both kinds; and the rejection of Papal abuses, including the sale of indulgences, the distribution of excess grace from the saints, purgatory, and the obligatory celibacy of the clergy. (cf. A&C: 20, 22). The discussion of each of these topics was limited to only a few lines.

It should be noted, however, that as for the agreement concerning original sin (cf. A&C: 36), there is no doubt that some misunderstanding was involved, which allowed each side to see its own position in what had been said. (cf. Jorgenson: 144, 148).


3.3. Key Points of Disagreement

While the points of agreement were discussed very briefly, the points of disagreement quickly became the entire focus of the dialogue. (cf. A&C: 20-23, 218).

“Innovation” was a recurring theme throughout the correspondence, recalling the discussion of Scripture and Holy Tradition. Jeremias repeatedly accused the Lutherans of innovation, on account of their attitude toward tradition, and the Lutherans continued to argue that they were not at all “innovative,” since they derived their theology from Scripture alone. (cf. A&C: 30, 149, 210, 285).

In terms of the amount of space devoted to any single topic, the filioque dominated the discussion. Regrettably, neither side employed any substantially new argumentation. The debate was basically a rehash of the old East-West polemics on the procession of the Holy Spirit.

The discussion of Free Will and the controversy over the relationship of Justification and Good Works are the points of disagreement most important for purposes of this present study.

Unfortunately, disagreement over the Sacraments took place primarily on a superficial level (e.g., enumeration, etc.) and did not lead to any extensive treatment of their theological substance. This lack of sacramental discussion, it would seem, clouded and obscured the discussion of free will, justification and good works.

Other points of disagreement were the Invocation of Saints and Monasticism.


4. Justification and Deification in the Dialogue


4.1. The Augustana Graeca

It is significant that Melanchthon’s Greek variata was given the imprimatur of Andreae and his fellow theologians at Tübingen. For in spite of its various “modifications” to the invariata, the Augustana Graeca was more than a private rendition of the Lutheran faith by Melanchthon; it, too, assumed the character of a public confession. As it was sent to Jeremias at the very time that Andreae was developing the Formula of Concord, there should be no question as to the care with which he would have dealt with such a document. (cf. Jorgenson: 1, 40, 42, 54).


Article II 28

The Article “of Original Sin” is notably expanded as compared to the invariata. It defines “original sin” as fundamentally being “without fear of God, without trust in Him” (AG II). But this original sin is also described at length in terms that are clearly used either to clarify the Lutheran doctrine for Eastern sensibilities or actually to accommodate the Eastern Orthodox notion of sin: terms like disorder, worthlessness, wretchedness, deprivation, deficiency, blindness, ignorance, obscuring, overshadowing, distortion, corruption, etc.29

God is not to blame for sin, since human nature was created good. That is to say, sin is not “natural”; it is the result of man’s Fall, “a corruption of the unchangeable and uninterrupted obedience, and of the undisguised and unmixed and an unsurpassed love of God, and of things similar to these impressed by God on the untarnished human nature before the fall” (AG II). Thus, again in Article XIX, the Augustana Graeca confesses,

Concerning the cause of sin, it is taught that, although God creates and preserves the things of nature, yet the cause of sin is certainly the will of the wicked and the despisers of God, that of the devil and the impious, who, without God assisting him, of his own will turns away from Him. (AG XIX)

The “original sin” of Adam’s Fall is inherited through father and mother, so that “every man by nature is born a child of the wrath of God, subject to and under the power of eternal death” (AG II; cf. also AG IV). Furthermore, this “inherited sin” is truly sin and liability, worthy of eternal condemnation. Thus, the Augustana Graeca goes on to say that the Son of God was sacrificed, not only for the sins “done by men in transgressing the law,” but also “for the ancient transgression and the calling to account of the human race” (AG III).

On account of original sin, man is unable by his own powers to fulfill the Law of God (cf. also AG IV). Thus, the Pelagians and others like them are condemned, who “deny that wretchedness and worthlessness from birth is sin,” and who “contend and say that man by his own powers of the soul can fulfill the law of God and be justified before Him” (AG II). Thus, also, the necessity of Baptism, whereby men are born again through the Holy Spirit, “who sets aright, consoles, and vivifies them, who also shields them against the devil and the power of sin” (AG III).


Article IV

The Article “of Justification” begins by repeating the description of original sin and its consequences, confessing that “all men, as it has been foreordained, have clothed themselves with the unhealthy and unclean nature, and they became sinners from their father and mother” (AG IV).

The Augustana Graeca uses the word Gospel in the broad sense; for example, the “Gospel” is said to “argue sin,” require repentance, and teach forgiveness and justification. And in Article V:

Christ instituted the ministry of the Gospel, which proclaims repentance and the remission of sins. The universal preaching of both: for it has argued all sins of all men, and it promises their remission to all who believe. (AG V)

Even so, the forgiveness and justification taught by the Gospel are given freely as a gift for Christ’s sake, and not through the good works of men.

If therefore the Gospel demands repentance, still that the remission of sins might be certain, it teaches us that it is brought to us freely and as a gift, that is, not through the worthiness of our good deed nor through our previous or subsequent right actions. (AG IV)

Instead of our good works, the good works of Christ are applied to us for justification, etc., as in the opening sentence of Article IV: “In order that we might attain to the good deeds of Christ, that is, the remission of sins and justification and eternal life, Christ instituted the preaching of the Gospel, through which the munificences of the Redeemer are applied to us” (AG IV). Thus, Christ alone deserves all the credit. Wherefore, “he who trusts that he earns grace by his own right actions is heedless of and overlooks the redemption and munificence of Christ the Saviour, and it is evident that he seeks some way to God by human works without Christ” (AG XX; cf. also AG V).

The salvation of Christ is thus received through faith alone, apart from works. However, the nature of such faith is not simply historical knowledge of the Gospel but trust and assent to the promises of Christ. In fact, the entire goal and purpose of the Gospel-history and its narrative is the gift of forgiveness and eternal life, which are received by a confident trust. This purpose of the Gospel is underscored again in Article XX:

The expression “faith” signifies not only history, such as might be found in the ungodly and in the devil, but in addition to the knowledge of history it also signifies the accomplishment of history, namely this article, the remission of sins, that clearly through Christ we have grace and righteousness, being set free from the condemnation of sins. (AG XX)

The promise of the Gospel is given to “those who learn by inquiry about Christ” through the historical narrative (AG IV).30 But in order to receive its gifts, the one who hears must trust and believe that the promise and history belong also to him.

Thus through the word of God, and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is present to men and works within those who hearken to and care for the Gospel teaching and who use the fellowship of the Sacraments and who encourage themselves by faith. (AG V)31

All of these promises -- Justification, forgiveness, and eternal life -- would be uncertain if they depended upon man, and would therefore not allow the “heart-stricken [to] rely on the promise and believe without ambiguity and without doubt” (AG IV; cf. also AG V & XX). This argument that the Gospel must be able to soothe troubled consciences is common in Reformation polemics.


Article XVIII

In the Article “of Free Will,” not only is man unable, on account or original sin, to do good works and earn his salvation; neither is he able on his own to turn toward God in faith. He is “altogether unable to make earnest and blameless the interior impulses and dispositions of the intellect and heart, such as the fear of God, firm and unswerving trust in Him, purity, and forbearance or patience, and the rest” (AG XVIII). Of course, it is true that man has a certain “freedom of the will” in matters subject to human reason, and is therefore able to refrain from externally wicked acts and to perform outwardly good deeds. But apart from the Holy Spirit, man is unable to set his heart right and to fear, love, and trust God. Thus, rejected once again are “the Pelagians and all others who say that without the Holy Spirit and grace we are able by our natural powers alone to love God above all things and to keep His commandments” (AG XVIII).


Article XX

The Article “of Good Works” is actually an opportunity to treat once again the matters of Justification and faith before discussing good works -- a procedure that highlights the Lutheran insistence that faith precedes the doing of good works.

Already in Article VI “of New Obedience,” the Lutherans encourage good works and teach that they are necessary: “Faith needs to be not ineffective and fruitless, but especially operative and productive” (AG VI). This necessity is repeated again in Article XX. Yet, the Augustana Graeca makes clear that good works are done, not to earn God’s mercy and forgiveness, but rather out of faith and for the sake of God’s will and commandment.

It is necessary for us to do good works, not that we might be confident that we will earn grace by them, but on account of the will of God. For the remission of sins and peace of conscience is obtained by faith alone. Since the Holy Spirit is given us by faith, hearts are renewed by Him, and they are disposed to do good, as Ambrose also says that faith is the mother of good free choice and of just action. (AG XX)

The believers ought to complete the good works which have been enjoined by God, on account of the will and command of God; but not that by them [good works] they might have confidence that they are deemed worthy of righteousness before God, for the remission of sins and righteousness is apprehended by faith. (AG VI)

By their very definition, good works consist in doing those things that God has commanded, and not in foolish traditions and superstitious works. Thus, the Lutherans have produced many writings on the Decalogue, “setting forth in them whatever works might be acceptable to God, and how in each one’s calling, so to speak, anyone might be able to be well-pleasing to Him,” as opposed to “spending time with teaching foolery about certain childish and unnecessary works; such as certain stated feasts, stated fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, service of the saints, the monastic life, and others like these” (AG XX).

In any case, apart from faith and without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to do any truly good works, and all efforts to do so fail (regardless of appearances).

Without the Holy Spirit, human powers are full of godless passions and desires, and alone they fall very short of accomplishing the things good and pleasing to God; but they are subject to the devil, who becomes master and exercises authority over them, and who drives men taken captive by him to various sins and to false opinions about God, and to manifest lawless and evil deeds.... For without faith human nature can in no way do the works either of the first or of the second commandments of the Decalogue. Without faith no one calls upon God, no one expects anything from Him, no one patiently carries the cross, but he seeks aid and help from men and he trusts in them. So therefore in the absence of faith and trust in God, all fleshly desires and human considerations reign in the heart. (AG XX)

From the one who has faith, however, good works flow as the result and evidence of faith, wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. As confessed already in Article V:

Being encouraged by faith and being set free from the troubles and travails of sin by the Holy Spirit, who is begotten and introduced in our hearts along with the other virtues, truly we know the compassionate and philanthropic [God] and the mercy of God, and we love and fear Him, producing by the Spirit trust, eager expectance of the help of God, invocation of Him alone, and other [virtues] similar to these. (AG V)

Yet, even the regenerate man who does good works does not rely on his works but always on Christ alone. For “it is necessary that we always cleave to the Mediator and Redeemer, and believe that God is gracious to us and that we are accounted just by Him, not that we fulfill the law, but we understand that God is propitiated to us through Christ, through Him and this promise” (AG XX). The Lutheran position is summarized in the conclusion to Article XX, as follows:

Without faith good works would not be pleasing to God, but the heart should have peace towards God before, having trusted and considering that God assists us and is gracious to us, and accounts us just, not because of the worthiness of the things done by us, but because of grace through Christ. This then is befitting Christians, and it echoes in our churches -- the teaching about good works. (AG XX)


4.2. Excursus on “Sin and Righteousness” in Eastern Orthodoxy

Just as a general description of Deification was provided in the introduction to this study, so must some preliminary comments now be made regarding the view of “sin” and “righteousness” in Orthodox theology. The Eastern understanding of these concepts is intimately related to the doctrine of Deification, and it represents a decisive factor in the response of Jeremias to the Augustana Graeca. Much of the ensuing argument between the Lutherans and the Patriarch involved their divergent use of key words related to salvation: words denoting the danger from which and the safety to which salvation occurs.32

In Eastern Orthodox theology,

Sin entered the world because the mind of man had been beguiled by Satan, who was jealous of the special relationship which man was destined to have with God. The sin of Adam was a personal act of his own free will that deprived him of the means of fulfilling his destiny, which was to overcome, by virtue of his personal relationship with the logos, the mortality of his human nature. Satan by his trickery gave death its fundamentally unnatural and unjust rule over mankind.33

Thus, for the East, “original sin” is not a universal guilt of all mankind, inherited from Adam, but “the bondage of the human race to death.” The sin of any individual is never the consequence of human nature, which remains the good creation of God; rather, sin is always the expression of personal choice, just as it was for Adam and Eve. “It is not transmitted by natural means from one generation to the next, but re-emerges afresh in each child of Adam. No one inherits the guilt of his ancestors; each man or woman is responsible only for the acts of his own free will.” Yet, it is recognized that all men sin, for though there is no universal guilt inherited from Adam, there is a universal propensity for sin as a result of the Fall. “The sin of Adam introduced the reign of death into the world, and it is this evil dominion which now causes all men to sin.” Romans 5:12 is interpreted accordingly: “By one man sin came into the world, and by sin death, because of which all have sinned.” In other words, all men sin because all men are subject to death. (Bray: 105).34

Now, as already indicated, the Eastern Church understands Deification as the goal of human life. The Incarnation of the Son of God was a necessary prerequisite for this Deification, even apart from sin. Sin did make the Crucifixion necessary, but not as a means of “exacting a just retribution in the punishment of the only one worthy to make the sacrifice.” The Cross vanquished not sin but death, “thereby making it possible for man to return to the state of Adam and renew his progress towards deification, secure in the knowledge that Christ had gone before, and that he had sent the Holy Spirit, who in the life-giving ‘drug’ of the sacrament applies Christ’s victory to the Church.” Thus, Eastern theologians typically do not think in the judicial categories of “justification.” “Righteousness” is understood in terms of “sanctification and the final re-creation of all things in Christ.” There is no emphasis on a “mathematical point” of conversion but on a continuing process of renewal. The superiority of Christian faith over the Jewish observance of the Law is the superiority of Christian righteousness made possible by the Incarnation, life, death, and Resurrection of Christ. Thus, the righteousness of a Christian exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees “in degree more than in kind,” and a life of good works is necessary for salvation. Such a life, however, is the “fruit of grace” and a “righteousness by faith,” since it is possible only through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, through which the individual participates in the “life-giving power of the risen Christ.” Apart from Baptism, there is no righteousness at all, and the so-called “good works” of the heathen are a mere delusion. (Bray: 106-107).35

Whereas for Lutherans “Salvation” is primarily a matter of Justification, whereby a man is made right with God, for the Eastern Orthodox “Salvation” denotes the participation of man in the divine nature. Lutherans are one with the Roman Catholics in the Western tradition of being concerned primarily with the danger from which man is saved, i.e., from sin, death and the power of the devil.36 The Eastern Church is far more focused on the life for which man is saved, i.e., for Deification. Good works, in this Eastern perspective, do not “save” a man in the sense of justifying him, but they are an aspect of salvation inasmuch as they are part-and-parcel with living the divine life. The Lutherans typically speak of the decisive movement from unbelief to faith, from condemnation to justification. The Orthodox are far more concerned with “preaching to the baptized” and addressing the spiritual growth of one who is already a believer. Their focus is not so much “on the ‘how’ of salvation as on the ‘content’ of salvation” (Salvation: 14).37


4.3. The First Exchange


The first response of Jeremias to the Augustana Graeca

In his first response to the Lutherans, Patriarch Jeremias provides an article-by-article commentary on the Augustana Graeca. He finds many points of essential agreement, but also a number of points of significant disagreement. Thus, he urges the scholars of Tübingen to leave behind their innovations and to accept the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In his opening remarks, he writes, “Would that you might be of like mind with our Church of Christ, so that if truly and with all your hearts you do [good] works, great joy will be in heaven and on earth, for the unity of each others church, which we hope will be for the glory of Christ” (A&C: 30-31).

Jeremias agrees with the Augustana Graeca that man has free will on the natural plane. He further agrees that on the spiritual plane no one is able to be saved without first having the help of God; thus, he is not a Pelagianist, per se. However, the Patriarch is adamant that grace saves those who are willing and does not violate man’s free will. Thus, even though everything depends on God, it still depends on us and Him; ours is the choosing and willing, God’s the completing and perfecting. (cf. A&C: 37, 78, 82).

The key question is whether Jeremias makes these remarks about regenerate man with respect to the process of Deification, or about the actual event of conversion. There is a certain amount of ambiguity in his remarks, which is not helped by the fact that much of what he says is given in the form of lengthy patristic citations. It would have been helpful (on the part of both sides in the dialogue) if the Sacraments, and especially Baptism, had been discussed in the context of Justification and Deification.38

In his comments on Justification, etc., Jeremias agrees that, while good works should be done, man should not rely on them. (cf. A&C: 42, 89). He also affirms the temporal priority of faith, which must precede the doing of good works. (cf. A&C: 39, 88). At the same time, he insists that faith must produce good works, and he objects to the cry of “faith alone.” (cf. A&C: 37, 38, 81).39 God promises to save man if he hears Him and does good works. As such, faith without works and works without faith are both rejected. (cf. A&C: 40, 46ff., 87). The lack of good works should not be excused by an appeal to human weakness; for God in His grace and mercy overlooks what is lacking in those who repent and who strive for the good. Man cooperates with this grace of God. (cf. A&C: 37, 44ff., 46).

The Patriarch strongly exhorts that man must live a life worthy of his calling (suggesting that he does have the regenerate in mind), and he scolds the Lutherans for dismissing the monastic life and other such traditions of the Church. (cf. A&C: 38, 39, 40, 41, 83, 84ff.).


The first response of the Tübingen theologians to Jeremias40 (cf. Jorgenson: 76-77).

The issue of a supposed “free will” was a controversy among the Lutherans of the 16th century. The controversy had its roots in the 5th-century debate between Augustine and Pelagious, which made a significant impact upon the entire Western Church. Among the Lutherans, Melanchthon and his followers (dubbed the “Philippists”) had started to include a place for human will in conversion.41 This Lutheran controversy was addressed in the Formula of Concord, Article II, and so was fresh in the minds of the Tübingen theologians. It was precisely in this context that the Lutherans began their dialogue with Jeremias II. Thus, they probably could not help but interpret the comments of Jeremias regarding free will as referring to conversion, since that was the “free will” battle they were finishing within the Lutheran Church. Consequently, in their response, the Lutherans emphasize that unregenerate man is totally depraved, dead in his sin, and therefore incapable of choosing or willing on the spiritual plane. (cf. A&C: 121).

The Lutherans strongly affirm divine monergism in conversion. It is true that after conversion, man can and does choose the good; yet, he does so weakly and only by the continued activity of God working in him to will and to do. (cf. A&C: 121, 122).42

To understand the Lutheran response to the necessity of good works, three distinguishing features of the Lutheran doctrine of Justification, which crystallized at the time of the Formula of Concord, are important to keep in mind. First, Justification by grace is received through a faith that is not merely historical knowledge but fundamentally a confident trust in and assent to the promises of God. Second, Justification is God’s forensic declaration of righteousness, which is thereby imputed not “infused.” And third, Justification is a one-time divine act which must be distinguished from Sanctification.

The Lutherans concede to Jeremias that “virtue” (not “justification” or “salvation”) is pursued by the doing of good works. (cf. A&C: 109). They also agree that good works should be done and do follow true faith. But they repeatedly emphasize that Justification occurs freely by God’s grace alone, excluding all works. They insist that to make works necessary for salvation would cause forgiveness and eternal life to be uncertain (thus returning again to the popular argument that was also presented in the Augustana Graeca). Consequently, works make no contribution to the cause of salvation. For though good works ought to be done and will be rewarded, they must not impair the all-sufficient work and merit of Christ. (cf. A&C: 123, 127ff.).


4.4. The Second Exchange


The second response of Jeremias (cf. Jorgenson: 80-81).

The Patriarch clearly heard the Lutherans denying free will, and so he responds with a catena of patristic quotations to “prove” that man is able to choose for good or evil. For Jeremias, this argument is really a corollary to saying that God’s creation is good and that man is the cause of sin and evil. (cf. A&C: 174). Man’s reason and free will stem from the fact that he is made in the image and likeness of God. (cf. A&C: 176ff.). Nevertheless, Jeremias still implies that grace precedes the doing of good, “for without grace we can do nothing whatsoever,” even though man is not coerced by grace. (A&C: 175).43

Jeremias asserts that the doers of “the spiritual law” will be saved; that is, those who keep the commandments and do good works animated by faith with the assistance of divine grace. (cf. A&C: 178, 180). In fact the distinction between the believer and the unbeliever (not between two types of believer) is to be found precisely in the bearing of the fruits of the Spirit. Thus, an “infused” rather than imputed righteousness is considered to make man right with God. (cf. A&C: 182-185).


The second response of the Tübingen theologians44 (cf. Jorgenson: 81-82).

The Tübingen theologians agree with Jeremias that man is not forced or coerced into conversion. Likewise, they readily agree that they virtues issue from God and not exclusively from man’s efforts and struggles. And they again affirm that man’s moral responsibility is consequent upon his will when choosing evil. (cf. A&C: 243).

However, the Lutherans again restate and emphasize at some length the inability of man to choose good prior to conversion and the necessity of divine monergism for conversion. (cf. A&C: 243, 244, 246ff.). Again, man has no choice for good until after his conversion, and even then man remains weak and imperfect in choosing and doing good. (cf. A&C: 247). Thus, in summary:

That which moves our hearts not to scorn the divine threatenings is from God. For us to believe in the Gospel is from God. To delight in the law of God, when we have already returned to the Lord, is from God. To do some good work is from God. (A&C: 248)

With respect to Justification, etc., the Lutherans add little in their second respond to their previous arguments, but they do clarify the relationship between Paul and James. (cf. A&C: 250). They maintain that man is not justified by keeping the spiritual law; indeed, it is impossible to keep the spiritual law because it demands absolute perfection, whereas man cannot even keep the first and greatest commandment, “to fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” (cf. A&C: 252ff.). But the theologians of Tübingen do agree that faith without works is not true faith, and that good works are done by faith for the glory of God and not for vainglory. (cf. A&C: 249). Thus, they teach that good works flow from man’s prior reconciliation to God by grace through faith for Christ’s sake; in other words, we love only because He first loved us. (A&C: 252, 253).


4.5. The Third Exchange


The third and final response of Jeremias (cf. Jorgenson: 82-84).

Jeremias begins his third response by returning to his argument for free will from the image of God in man. He indicates that evil is genuinely foreign to human nature, which God created and declared to be “good.” (A&C: 303).45 Unfortunately, in making this argument, the Patriarch seems to back himself into a truly Pelagianistic corner, going so far as to say at one point that nothing after the Fall prevents man from turning aside from evil. (cf. A&C: 304). Yet, he ends by asserting the need for God’s help, thus ultimately repudiating outright Pelagianism. (cf. A&C: 305).

The third and final response of Patriarch Jeremias is relatively short, and it includes nothing on Justification, per se. It concludes with a request that theological dialogue cease.

Therefore, we request that from henceforth you do not cause us more grief, nor write to us on the same subject if you should wish to treat these luminaries and theologians in a different manner [than the Orthodox Church]. You honor and exalt [the Fathers] in words, but you reject them in deeds. For you try to prove our weapons which are their holy and divine discourses as unsuitable. And it is with these documents that we would have to write and contradict you. Thus, as for you, please release us from these cares. Therefore, going about your own ways, write no longer concerning dogmas; but if you do, write only for friendship’s sake. Farewell. (A&C: 306)


The third response of the Tübingen theologians46 (cf. Jorgenson: 84).

In their final response, the Lutherans provide a summary position already in their salutation:

We entreat the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Greek Churches, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and under the diligence, wakefulness, and faithful care of Your Holiness [Jeremias], will tend most salvifically the Holy Gospel of Christ, so that they acknowledge the Chief Shepherd Christ as their only Savior and publicly express their thanksgiving toward Jesus Christ by good works, which He has ordered so that having honorably finished the course of the present life and having kept the faith, they will receive the righteous crown of everlasting life. May it be so. (A&C: 308)

The Lutherans express their amazement at the importance Jeremias attaches to human reason and free will, and they are blunt in their assessment of those who teach as Jeremias has (especially in his most recent response). They write,

They who compare the powers of man, which were acquired after the Fall, with those powers which existed before the Fall of Adam, are of the same opinion as we: It is as if a man who has reached the lowest point of poverty might strive to become very rich from the great riches he had in the past. But many such powers, which existed before the Fall, truly possess the daily experience; and for this power some boast with such big words, who either do not comprehend sufficiently what great perfection the Law of God demands from us, or they do not sufficiently recognize their own natural corruption and weakness. (A&C: 310)47

In conclusion, the Lutherans repeat their own assertion on the basis of Scripture that man is unable to do good (prior to conversion), and to make this point they return to an argument from the Hebrew text of Genesis. (cf. A&C: 309ff.).


5. Observations and Conclusions

As for the debate, if one must speak of “winners” and “losers,” then Tübingen “won” the contest. The Lutherans certainly thought so, as they demonstrated by publishing the entire correspondence in response to the slanderous attacks of the Roman Catholics. After all, they had been sharpening their polemical skills through years of controversy, first with Rome, then with Zurich and Geneva, and finally with themselves. They were also better equipped theologically than their competition, who were languishing under the yoke of the Ottoman Turks. The Lutherans knew their Hebrew and the Hebrew Scriptures, they had access to the Church Fathers of both East and West and could readily work with both Greek and Latin, and they had the momentum of the Reformation still behind them. Furthermore, they presented Jeremias with a different set of questions than the Orthodox East had faced in its own development.48

If the correspondence between Tübingen and Constantinople is treated as a debate, however, it is clear that the participants were not abiding by the same set of rules. Though both the Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox presented their argumentation from Scripture and Patristic sources, their criteria for truth differed. For Andreae and his fellow theologians, the clear Word of God was the last word on every issue they discussed. For Jeremias and his advisers, the Word of God was not clear, and therefore should not be used, apart from the exposition of the Fathers. Each team played according to its own game plan. Thus, it is questionable whether any true “debate” occurred. And if so, it could easily be argued that each side won on the basis of its own criteria.

As for the dialogue, there was clearly a difference of belief and confession. The several points of disagreement represented significant obstacles to rapprochement. The relationship between Scripture and Holy Tradition presented such a hurdle from the outset. The procession of the Holy Spirit added to the correspondence a long-standing controversy between East and West. And this report has shown, in particular, the pervasive discrepancy between the understanding of free will, justification, and good works. In addition, even many of those areas that were passed over as points of agreement, e.g., original sin, the precise nature of the Church and Ministry, the substantial meaning of the Sacraments, etc., were actually dissimilar in some key respects.

At the same time, alongside these real differences, the Lutherans and the Orthodox were each talking past the other out of a certain ignorance of the other’s unique theological perspective. (cf. Jorgenson: 93). (cf. A&C: 23).

Justification and Deification are fundamentally different ways of defining salvation, which result in equally fundamental differences in the way one speaks about the roles of human will, faith, and good works in relation to that salvation. Without a doubt, those differences were a major factor in the 16th-century dialogue between the Tübingen theologians and Patriarch Jeremias.

Indeed, the entire correspondence reveals that there was misunderstanding as well as discord over the doctrine of justification. This encumbrance envelops the topic of justification as well as the intimately related questions of grace, free will, and synergism. When, for example, the patriarch is constantly stressing the value of good works for salvation [i.e. as Theosis], the Lutherans are protecting justification from any intrusion of good works. Hence the Greeks see the Germans as denigrating works and free will, while [Lutherans] characterize the Greek position as a “naive synergism”! (Jorgenson: 164)

Differences between Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox are still apparent in their respective evaluations of the dialogue. (cf. Jorgenson: 94).

Is there any hope of “success” in current and future dialogue between Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox? Yes -- depending on one’s measure of success, but only by first coming to grips with the radically different traditions of East and West,49 and ultimately -- while maintaining the integrity of confession on both sides -- by seeking common ground and starting from the shared Christological heritage.50 Working from this common foundation, the Person and Work of Christ must be brought to bear upon both Justification and Deification.51 Christ is the One Who has taken our life to be His own, Who by His obedience has satisfied the Law and made us righteous before God, and Who has granted to us that we should receive His life to be our own in His Kingdom. Christ alone has saved us from our enemies of sin, death and the devil; Christ alone has saved us for participation in the divine nature.52 Thus, salvation must be understood Christologically in all its aspects. For it remains the case that any and all theology -- and so also any dialogue -- that wishes to be Christian in any true sense must finally answer above all else the questions of Who Christ is and What Christ has done.



Appendix

Augustana Graeca53 / Augustana Invariata54

(Articles 1 - 6 and 18 - 20)

Augustana Graeca

Augustana Invariata

Article I: of God.

The churches among us, being of the same mind, teach that the decree of the Synod of Nicea about the unity of the divine essence and of the three hypostases or persons is true, and that it is to be believed without any doubt that there is clearly one divine essence, which is called and is God eternal, bodiless, undivided, having created and preserving all things, both seen and unseen, by immeasurable strength, wisdom, and goodness. Yet there are three persons, of the same essence and of the same power, and coeternal, that is to say, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They use the name of person in that meaning according to which the ecclesiastical writers have also used it in the same method, lest it signify a part or a quality lying in another, but that the distinctive character and unique substance may be apparent.

They condemn all heresies which blasphemed this article of the Orthodox Faith: such as that of the Manichaeans, who fabricate two principles, the one good and the other evil; and that of the Valentinians, of the Arians, of the Eunomians, and of the Mahometans, and, briefly speaking, all the heresies of the others similar to these; moreover, the heresy of those relating to Paul of Samosata, both the old and the new, who contend that there is only one person of the Word and of the Holy Spirit and who treacherously and impiously proclaim and contrive that the persons are not distinguished, but that the Word signifies the Word uttered vocally and that the Spirit signifies a certain movement created in things.

Article I: of God.

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil; also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that “Word” signifies a spoken word, and “Spirit” signifies motion created in things.

Article II: of Original Sin.

They also teach that, after the transgression of Adam the first-formed, all men from father and mother are born sinners by nature, that is, without fear of God, without trust in Him, but with concupiscence and disorder, and that they are clothed in innate worthlessness and wretchedness. In consent and in accordance with the opinion and teaching of the holy Fathers and all the orthodox and pious in the Church, they state that the innate worthlessness and wretchedness of human nature is the liability and subjection to eternal damnation for all men, through the transgression of the first-formed, in which every man by nature is born a child of the wrath of God, subject to and under the power of eternal death; moreover, they teach that the corruption of human nature is implanted in everyone from Adam, and it comprises the deprivation or the deficiency of original justice, and of integrity or of obedience, and concupiscence.

This deficiency is a terrible blindness, and ignorance of God, an obscuring or overshadowing of divine illumination and knowledge of God, which would have radiated in human nature were it still undamaged and unstumbled, and it is a distortion of rectitude; that is, a corruption of the unchangeable and uninterrupted obedience, and of the undisguised and unmixed and an unsurpassed love of God, and of things similar to these impressed by God on the untarnished human nature before the fall. They say that this affliction or wickedness of the corrupted human nature is truly sin, sentencing to eternal death all men up to the present who have not been born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit.

Thinking and teaching in this way, they condemn the so-called Pelagians and the others, moreover, who, to the dishonor of the redemption and the good works of Christ, deny that wretchedness and worthlessness from birth is sin, and they contend and say that man by his own powers of the soul can fulfill the law of God and be justified before Him.

Article II: of Original Sin.

Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who to obscure the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

Article III: of the Son of God.

In addition to what has been said, one of the things taught among us is this, that the Word, that is to say, the Son of God, assumed human nature in the womb of the blessed ever-virgin Mary, so that two natures, namely the divine and the human, are inseparably joined in the hypostatic union and they continue forever. So then one Christ, truly God and truly man, born of the ever-virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried, in order to reconcile the Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for the ancient transgression and the calling to account of the human race, but also for all things whichsoever are worthy of condemnation which are done by men in transgressing the law. The Same also descended to Hades and truly rose on the third day, and then ascended to heaven, sitting at the right hand of the Father, ceaselessly and endlessly reigning and ruling every creature, and sanctifying those who believe in Him, sending into their hearts the Holy Spirit, who sets aright, consoles, and vivifies them, who also shields them against the devil and the power of sin. The same Christ is going to return manifestly and gloriously to judge the living and the dead, according to the Apostles’ Creed. Herein are condemned, as in the previous chapters, the heresies which attack this article of faith.

Article III: of the Son of God.

Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably conjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin.

The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.

Article IV: of Justification.

In order that we might attain to the good deeds of Christ, that is, the remission of sins and justification and eternal life, Christ instituted the preaching of the Gospel, through which the munificences of the Redeemer are applied to us. As it is written in the gospel narrative according to Luke, in the last chapter, that repentance and the remission of sins for all nations should be preached in His name. Since all men, as it has been foreordained, have clothed themselves with the unhealthy and unclean nature, and they became sinners from their father and mother, and they transgressed the divine law, and they are able neither to keep His commandments nor to love God with their whole heart, now the Gospel has argued sins, and it shows us the Mediator and Redeemer Christ, and it teaches us about the remission of transgressions.

Since sins are searched out and discovered by the Gospel, it is necessary that the terrified and heart-stricken rely on the promises and believe without ambiguity and without doubt that we attain to the remission of all sins and are justified before God freely through Christ, who has become a sacrifice for us and has propitiated the Father for us. If therefore the Gospel demands repentance, still that the remission of sins might be certain, it teaches us that it is brought to us freely and as a gift, that is, not through the worthiness of our good deed nor through our previous or subsequent right actions. The remission of sins becomes precarious and uncertain if it would be esteemed that we attain to it whenever we merit it for previous good deeds, or whenever the repentance happens to be worthy enough for the remission of sins.

Since the anguished and distressed conscience can find no work which might stand against the wrath of God, for this cause God offered to us His Son, that He alone may be a propitiator. Wherefore it is necessary that this honor and glory of propitiation due and fitting to Christ alone be assigned in no way to our works. Thus Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “By grace you are saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is a gift of God not from works, lest anyone should boast” [Eph. 2:8-9]. And to the Romans.

Wherefore this is from faith, that according to grace the promise be certain. Then, when the conscience hears about the belief in the remission of sins, it steadfastly and immovably holds that this does not depend upon our worthiness, but that it is a charism and a gift of God, given to us through Christ. This consolation is firm and it is necessary for those who are exceedingly sorrowful and afflicted at soul on account of sins, and it agrees with the teachings of the holy Fathers. Thus Ambrose says: “This is arranged by God, that he who believes in Christ might be saved, who without work by faith alone attains to the remission of sins.”

This way of speaking about faith shows not only historical knowledge, but it also signifies trust and assent, assigning to us the promise about the remission of sins, and justification and eternal life, and this promise belongs to those who learn by inquiry about Christ. Wherefore in the Apostles’ Creed this article is joined to the historical narrative “I believe in the remission of sins,” which is the chief point of all the others. One would not fail of the truth in saying that this grace is the end and goal of the entire historical narrative. Christ suffered and rose on account of this, so that through Him the remission of sins and eternal life might be given to us.

Article IV: of Justification.

Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Article V: of the Ministry.

Thus Christ instituted the ministry of the Gospel, which proclaims repentance and the remission of sins. The universal preaching of both: for it has argued all sins of all men, and it promises their remission to all who believe, lest it be precarious and lest anyone suspect it to be doubtful or uncertain, but in order that all the distressed and heart-broken should know by the full knowledge of sins that it is to be believed that they are set free by grace through Christ, and not through their own satisfaction or worthiness. Thus consoling ourselves by the promises of the Gospel, and being roused by faith, we undoubtedly attain to the remission of sins, and at the same time God grants us the Holy Spirit.

Thus through the word of God, and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is present to men and works within those who hearken to and care for the Gospel teaching and who use the fellowship of the Sacraments and who encourage themselves by faith. Of a truth Paul says in the third [chapter] of the Epistle to the Galatians: “that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” [Gal. 3:22]. The same writing to the Corinthians calls the Gospel the ministry of the Spirit [2 Cor. 3:8]. Writing to the Romans he says: “faith is from hearing, and hearing is by the word of God” [Rom. 10:17]. Wherefore being encouraged by faith and being set free from the troubles and travails of sin by the Holy Spirit, who is begotten and introduced in our hearts along with the other virtues, truly we know the compassionate and philanthropic [God] and the mercy of God, and we love and fear Him, producing by the Spirit trust, eager expectance of the help of God, invocation of Him alone, and other [virtues] similar to these.

So teach our theologians, and they condemn all those who do not teach this faith which alone clearly lays hold of the remission of sins but who bid consciences to doubt and to be uncertain, and who say that this doubt about the remission of sins is not sin, and those who teach that men attain to the remission of sins not according to grace but according to one’s own worthiness, and who do not say that it is to be believed that they are justified freely through Christ.

In addition to these, [they condemn] both the Anabaptists and all others like them who think and teach that men receive the Holy Spirit by their own preparations and good deeds separate from and without the external word and the preaching of the Gospel.

Article V: of the Ministry.

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and the administering of the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

Article VI: of New Obedience.

Of what has been said, it is held that this faith needs to be not ineffective and fruitless, but especially operative and productive. The believers ought to complete the good works which have been enjoined by God, on account of the will and command of God; but not that by them [good works] they might have confidence that they are deemed worthy of righteousness before God, for the remission of sins and righteousness is apprehended by faith, as even the very voice of Christ witnesses, saying: “When you have done all that is commanded you, say ‘we are unprofitable servants’” [Lk. 17:10]. The human conscience is not able to set itself pure from sin and unreproached and guiltless against the just judgment of God, just as Psalm 142 says: “Enter not into judgment with they servant, for before thee shall no living man be justified.” And John in the first [Epistle] says: “If we say we do not have sin, we deceived ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to take away our sins” [1 Jn. 1:8-9].

Article VI: of New Obedience.

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: “When ye shall have done all these things, say: ‘We are unprofitable servants.’” Luke 17,10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: “It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.” [cf. AG IV, above]

Article XVIII: of Free Will.

Concerning free will or free power, they think and teach that the human will has a certain free choice, and that it is surely free to achieve civil justice and to choose one rather than another of the things which are subject to human reason. [They teach that] without the help and grace and operation of the Holy Spirit in no way does man become sufficiently acceptable to God, to love Him with the whole heart and to fear and to believe in Him, to have power to expel from the heart the innate lawless and disorderly desires; but all these things are accomplished by the Holy Spirit who is given to us by the Gospel. For St. Paul says in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter two: “Natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God” [1 Cor. 2:14]. Lest one assume that we are making some innovation in this chapter, we offer for consideration what is said in nearly the same words by St. Augustine in the third [book] of the Hypognosticon. He speaks in this way:

We confess that there is free will in all men, on the one hand choosing according to reason, but on the other hand not adapted either to set to work at or to accomplish anything in regard to God without God, but sufficient only to choose the good and bad of the present life. By good I mean what things are easy by nature, such as to determine to labor in the field, to determine to eat and to drink, to determine to have some friend or clothing, to determine to build a house, to determine to marry, and to determine to feed cattle, to learn the skill of different good things, and thus to determine things of this life. All these things do not subsist without divine governance, from which and by which what is now both continues and began to be. Conversely, I say the evil and the bad, such as to determine to worship idols or to commit murder, and other things just like these.

Of those holding in this way, rejected are the Pelagians and all others who say that without the Holy Spirit and grace we are able by our natural powers alone to love God above all things and to keep His commandments. For if nature can also accomplish externally apparent works, such as to subdue the hands lest they steal what is another’s or murder, yet it is altogether unable to make earnest and blameless the interior impulses and dispositions of the intellect and heart, such as the fear of God, firm and unswerving trust in Him, purity, and forbearance or patience, and the rest.

Article XVIII: of Free Will.

Of Free Will they teach that man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III:

We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. “Good” I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their beginning. “Evil” I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.

They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching “the substance of the act.” For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.

Article XIX: of the Cause of Sin.

Concerning the cause of sin, it is taught that, although God creates and preserves the things of nature, yet the cause of sin is certainly the will of the wicked and the despisers of God, that of the devil and the impious, who, without God assisting him, of his own will turns away from Him. Thus Christ says [in the Gospel] according to John, chapter eight: “When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own” [Jn. 8:44].

Article XIX: of the Cause of Sin.

Of the Cause of Sin they teach that, although God does create and preserve nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, that is, of the devil and ungodly men; which will, unaided by God, turns itself from God, as Christ says John 8,44: “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.”

Article XX: of Good Works.

They falsely accuse our [theologians] saying that they forbid good works. The many writings they produced about the Decalogue, and the rest like these, bear them witness that they have discoursed and taught usefully and properly about all one’s duties in life, setting forth in them whatever works might be acceptable to God, and how in each one’s calling, so to speak, anyone might be able to be well-pleasing to Him. Concerning these the preachers in the churches spoke very little in the former time, only spending time with teaching foolery about certain childish and unnecessary works; such as certain stated feasts, stated fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, service of the saints, the monastic life, and others like these, which our opponents have been advised about and are already unlearning, and less often than before praising highly such useless works, they are beginning to make mention of faith, of which they were formerly quite silent. Although they suppress and do not speak about the doctrine of faith, for the purpose of leaving consciences wavering and doubtful and urging men to earn the remission of sins by their own good deeds, yet they do not teach that by faith alone through Christ we undoubtedly attain the remission of sins.

Since the doctrine about faith, which must always be pre-eminent in the Church, has been neglected until this time, so that no one might deny that nothing at all was said about righteousness by faith in ecclesiastical sermons, and since only the false teaching about works prevailed in the churches, our [theologians] therefore have taught about faith in this way:

That through it we attain to the remission of sins, earning this by neither previous nor subsequent works, but receiving it by the grace and mercy of God through Christ, and that it is to be believed without any doubt that through Christ we have been justified before God; that is, we are accounted just, and in no way might we appear especially earnest and without reproach by the worthiness of [our] own good deeds, and might we accomplish good works, and Christ, the one Mediator and Propitiator, by whom we have become partakers of grace and the Father is reconciled again to us, is set before us by God. Therefore he who trusts that he earns grace by his own right actions is heedless of and overlooks the redemption and munificence of Christ the Saviour, and it is evident that he seeks some way to God by human works without Christ; and this, while the Redeemer says about Himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” [Jn. 14:6].

This doctrine about faith is revealed and observed everywhere in the writings of Paul; such as in [chapter] two of [the Epistle] to the Ephesians: “For by grace you are saved by faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” [Eph. 2:8-9]. And in the fourth [chapter] of the Epistle to the Romans: “therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end that the promise might be sure” [Rom. 4:16]. If we need to be deemed worthy of the remission of sins through our own good deeds, in no way might the conscience be able to be sure and certain about it. Since we always find something lacking in our works, it is necessary to doubt about the remission of transgressions, and therefore the promise would be useless, having been founded upon our noble and good deeds.

Lest there be anyone to accuse us that we contrive some new unfamiliar interpretation, foreign to the thought of Paul, let him know that this treatment is not scarce in additional witnesses from the holy Fathers. For in many books Augustine advocates grace and righteousness by faith, defending it against the earning from works. Ambrose is in harmony with these in many ways and in different places, and in the [book] about the calling of the nations he teaches and speaks in this way: “The redemption by the blood of Christ would be set at naught, and the privilege of human works would submit to the mercy of God, if the justification by grace were owed to previous good deeds, so that it would not be a gift of the giver, but a certain earning of the worker.”

If the inexperienced despise this teaching, the pious and crushed consciences perceive that is furnishes as much consolation as possible to those who are tempted, that without doubt and without distinction they are reconciled to God by Christ, and they believe that they will be freed from the condemnation of their binding transgressions. They would never be able to be certain and at rest, if it were necessary that we be justified by the things accomplished by us. Wherefore already regenerated and doing good deeds, still it is necessary that we always cleave to the Mediator and Redeemer, and believe that God is gracious to us and that we are accounted just by Him, not that we fulfill the law, but we understand that God is propitiated to us through Christ, through Him and this promise. Therefore, in the fifth [chapter] of the Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace,” and the rest [Rom. 5:1-2]. All the holy Scripture is full of such very plain words. It is fitting that this whole doctrine be brought back to a struggle and conflict of the confused and frightened conscience, lest it be able to be understood in another way [without this struggle]. Wherefore, profane and inexperienced men incorrectly know what is needful about it, nothing other than Christian righteousness, unless they are dreaming about political or philosophical [righteousness].

Since it would be necessary for the frightened conscience to do something, with God judging it, they who despised the doctrine about faith in Christ are incapable of perceiving the wrath of God and of being in anguish, and so they flee to works as to some place of refuge, to propitiate by their own good deeds God who is angered against them, endeavoring to be deemed worthy of eternal life. Therefore they undertake both the course of monastic life and certain other practices for earning grace and rendering satisfaction for sins. Lacking the ability for the conscience to be calm and firm in these things, they murmured against God, until they entirely despaired of the end. For this reason it was most necessary that this renewed teaching about faith in Christ be handed over to the people, lest they not know what to do. But the exceeding sorrowful and frightened and broken conscience should discern that by faith they ought to apprehend consolation, grace, and the remission of sins, and righteousness.

This also is taught, that the expression “faith” signifies not only history, such as might be found in the ungodly and in the devil, but in addition to the knowledge of history it also signifies the accomplishment of history, namely this article, the remission of sins, that clearly through Christ we have grace and righteousness, being set free from the condemnation of sins.

Whoever therefore has trusted that by Christ he is reconciled to God and that He is gracious to him, he truly knows God and he knows that He cares about him; once again he loves and calls upon Him, and, briefly speaking, he does not live without God, as do the heathen. For neither the demons nor godless men believe this article, namely the remission of sins, wherefore they hate God as some enemy and most hostile foe, neither calling upon Him nor expecting anything good from Him. According to this way, Augustine also advises the readers about the meaning of faith and teaches that this expression in the holy Scriptures implies not knowledge such as it might be allowed for even the ungodly to have, but trust which consoles and restores the prostrate conscience.

This is also one of the things taught by us: that it is necessary for us to do good works, not that we might be confident that we will earn grace by them, but on account of the will of God. For the remission of sins and peace of conscience is obtained by faith alone. Since the Holy Spirit is given us by faith, hearts are renewed by Him, and they are disposed to do good, as Ambrose also says that faith is the mother of good free choice and of just action, and Paul says in the [Epistle] to the Romans, chapter eight: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” [Rom. 8:14]. For the Holy Spirit accomplishes within us faith and the full knowledge of sin, so that more and more each day we might fully know how great and how much is the grace promised to us through Christ, and progressing in faith, we might gain eternal life and consolation. The Holy Spirit is working and producing in us the remaining virtues, enjoined by God in the Decalogue, namely, fear of God as befits His sons, love, thanksgiving, invocation, praise, brotherly love, patience, purity, obedience, and the like. Without the Holy Spirit, human powers are full of godless passions and desires, and alone they fall very short of accomplishing the things good and pleasing to God; but they are subject to the devil, who becomes master and exercises authority over them, and who drives men taken captive by him to various sins and to false opinions about God, and to manifest lawless and evil deeds, as it is possible to observe for one who wishes in the lives of the philosophers, who in all earnestness devoted themselves to decent and noble living, yet they fell far short, defiled by many manifest and most shameful sins. For such is the weakness of men who lack faith and the Holy Spirit and who govern themselves by their own human powers alone. From these things it is thus clear and manifest to all that this doctrine must not be accused of forbidding the doing of good works, but it must be deemed worthy of the greatest approval since it shows and discloses how one might do such things. For without faith human nature can in no way do the works either of the first or of the second commandments of the Decalogue. Without faith no one calls upon God, no one expects anything from Him, no one patiently carries the cross, but he seeks aid and help from men and he trusts in them. So therefore in the absence of faith and trust in God, all fleshly desires and human considerations reign in the heart. Wherefore Christ Himself says in the Gospel according to John, chapter 15: “Without me you can do nothing” [Jn. 15:5]. In the church hymns there is also this: “Without your divine power and support, nothing is in man, nothing harmless in human nature.” With that having been said, this is also expressly taught by us: How things well done might be acceptable to God, not in our fulfilling the law (for except for Christ no man ever did this), but rather through doing good works man is reconciled to God, and he is accounted just by Him through Christ, through whom that which is wretched and defective, which still abides in all the saints, is loosed from us. Therefore let no one suppose, albeit he was regenerated, that he is just through his own purity or in the fulfilling of the law; but let him always stand close to God through Christ, as Mediator and Redeemer, trusting that on account of Him God is gracious and favorable to him, and let him know that the things earnestly done by us lack mercy, and in no way are they sufficient and worthy for God to accept them as perfect and non-defective righteousness. To owe us eternal life as to render payment equivalent to them, but in this they please God, that He is affectionately and kindly disposed to the man doing good works, becoming gentle and propitious to him through Christ, each one might assign something to himself by faith alone. Good works therefore become acceptable to God only in the believers, according to the teaching of Paul: “Everything that is not of faith is sin” [Rom. 14:23]. For the heart doubts and is at a loss whether God is propitious, whether He hears those who invoke [Him], and in the meantime it is hostile and most angry at God, which on the exterior and in appearance is most noble and worthy of the greatest honor by the man so disposed and thinking, yet it is abominable to God, they are sins through the rotten and impure of heart. Therefore without faith good works would not be pleasing to God, but the heart should have peace towards God before, having trusted and considering that God assists us and is gracious to us, and accounts us just, not because of the worthiness of the things done by us, but because of grace through Christ. This then is befitting Christians, and it echoes in our churches -- the teaching about good works.

Article XX: of Good Works.

Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding Good Works. For their published writings on the Ten Commandments, and others of like import, bear witness that they have taught to good purpose concerning all estates and duties of life, as to what estates of life and what works in every calling be pleasing to God. Concerning these things preachers heretofore taught but little, and urged only childish and needless works, as particular holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like. Since our adversaries have been admonished of these things, they are now unlearning them, and do not preach these unprofitable works as heretofore. Besides, they begin to mention faith, of which there was heretofore marvelous silence. They teach that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin faith and works, and say that we are justified by faith and works. This doctrine is more tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation than their old doctrine.

Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning faith, which ought to be the chief one in the Church, has lain so long unknown, as all must needs grant that there was the deepest silence in their sermons concerning the righteousness of faith, while only the doctrine of works was treated in the churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning faith as follows: --

First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith, when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2,5, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14,6.

This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, Eph. 2,8: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works,” etc.

And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: “Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of man’s works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.”

But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced, nevertheless God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom. 5,1: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” This whole doctrine is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience; neither can it be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.

Heretofore consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works; they did not hear the consolation of the Gospel. Some persons were driven by conscience into the desert, into monasteries, hoping there to merit grace by a monastic life. Some also devised other works whereby to merit grace and make satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very great need to treat of, and renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the end that anxious consciences should not be without consolation, but that they might know that grace and forgiveness of sins and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ.

Men are also admonished that here the term “faith” does not signify merely the knowledge of the history, such as is in the ungodly and in the devil, but signifies a faith which believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of the history -- namely, this article: the forgiveness of sins, to wit, that we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through Christ, truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him, and calls upon God; in a word, he is not without God, as the heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from Him. Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the word “faith,” and teaches that the term “faith” is accepted in the Scriptures, not for knowledge such as is in the ungodly, but for confidence which consoles and encourages the terrified mind.

Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of God. It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended, and that, for nothing. And because through faith the Holy Ghost is received, hearts are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to be able to bring forth good works. For Ambrose says: “Faith is the mother of a good will and right doing.” For man’s powers without the Holy Ghost are full of ungodly affections, and are too weak to do works which are good in God’s sight. Besides, they are in the power of the devil, who impels men to divers sins, to ungodly opinions, to open crimes. This we may see in the philosophers, who, although they endeavored to live an honest life, could not succeed, but were defiled with many open crimes. Such is the feebleness of man when he is without faith and without the Holy Ghost, and governs himself only by human strength.

Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine is not to be charged with prohibiting good works, but rather the more to be commended, because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith human nature can in no wise do the works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith it does not call upon God, nor expect anything from God, nor bear the cross, but seeks, and trusts in, man’s help. And thus, when there is no faith and trust in God, all manner of lusts and human devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ said, John 15,5: “Without Me ye can do nothing”; and the Church sings: “Lacking Thy divine favor, there is nothing found in man, naught in him is harmless.”


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Endnotes

1. Key resources on the 16th-century dialogue include the following: Acta et Scripta Theologorum Wirtembergensium et Patriarchae Constantinopolitan D. Hieremiae: quae utrique ab Anno MDLXXVI usque ad Annum MDLXXI de Avgvstana Confessione inter se miserunt: Graece & Latine ab ijsdem Theologis edita (1584); Ernst Benz, Die Ostkirche im Lichte der protestantischen Geschichtsschreibung von der Reformation bis zur Gegenwart (1952); George Florovsky, “An Early Ecumenical Correspondence,” World Lutheranism of Today (1950); Wayne James Jorgenson, The Augustana Graeca and the Correspondence between the Tübingen Lutherans and Patriarch Jeremias (1979); Berthold F. Korte, “Early Lutheran Relations with the Eastern Orthodox,” The Lutheran Quarterly 9 (February 1957); Allan Kowalchuk, “The Correspondence of Patriarch Jeremias Tranos with Lutheran Scholars of Tübingen as It Relates to East-West Christian Relations,” Patristic and Byzantine Review 4 (No. 3, 1985); George Mastrantonis, Augsburg and Constantinople (1982); John E. Rexine, “East-West Church Relations in the 16th Century: Introductory Remarks on Jeremias Tranos and the Lutherans of Tübingen,” Patristic and Byzantine Review 4 (No. 3, 1985); Robert Tobias, “Contacts between Lutherans and Orthodox, 1519-1978" (December 1983); John Travis, “Orthodox-Lutheran Relations: Their Historical Beginnings,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 29 (Winter 1984);Constantine N. Tsirpanlis, The Historical and Ecumenical Significance of Jeremias II’s Correspondence with the Lutherans (1573-1581) (1982); Dorothea Wendebourg, Reformation und Orthodoxie (1986); John J. Zoppi, “The Correspondence of 1573-1581 between Lutheran Theologians at Tübingen and the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate at Constantinople, and the Dispute concerning Sacred Tradition” (in four parts), Patristic and Byzantine Review 4 (No. 3, 1985) & 5 (1986).

2. “Since the days of the Reformation there has been in Lutheranism no lack of earnest attempts to open relations with the Eastern Orthodox church.” Eduard Steinwand, “Lutheranism and the Orthodox Church,” Lutheran World 6 (September 1959): 122.

3. Berthold F. Korte, “Early Lutheran Relations with the Eastern Orthodox,” The Lutheran Quarterly 9 (February 1957): 53. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Korte: 53).]

4. Jakob Andreae (1528-1590), “Doctor of theology, Provost of the church at Tübingen, Chancellor of the Academy, and Advisor of the duke,” was certainly one of the most active and prominent theologians of the Lutheran Church in the latter part of the 16th century. “While he fought the positions of Flacius (on original sin) and of Stringel (on synergism), he collaborated with Martin Chemnitz and Nicholas Selnecker to produce the Formula of Concord in 1577.” Wayne James Jorgenson, The Augustana Graeca and the Correspondence between the Tübingen Lutherans and Patriarch Jeremias (1979): 259-260. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Jorgenson: 259-260).] cf. also Robert Kolb, Andreae and the Formula of Concord (1977).

5. Jeremias II (1536-1595), the Patriarch of Constantinople, “distinguished himself primarily as an able administrator and a zealous pastor.” He served as Patriarch “within the vortex of intrigues at Constantinople and under the humiliating dependence of Moslem potentates during the darkest days of the Turkish Captivity,” and for his stalwart performance he has earned the reputation as “probably the greatest and most famous patriarch since 1453.” He is best known, however, for his involvement in three specific contacts with the church outside his own patriarchate: “(1.) his relationship with the Lutherans at Tübingen; (2.) his opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, particularly his rejection of the Gregorian calendar; and (3.) his role in the creation of the Patriarchate of Moscow.” Although he likely delegated to his court theologians the compilation of patristic sources and the actual composition of his replies to Tübingen, Jeremias is rightly considered their “author,” since “he gave his advice and his approbation to the correspondence by virtue of his office as patriarch” (Jorgenson: 268-269).

6. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (editors), Salvation in Christ (1992): 9. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Salvation: 9).]

7. “The letters between the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II and a group of Lutheran theologians at Tübingen, in the last quarter of the XVIth century, are ecumenical documents of great importance and interest. It was the first systematical exchange of theological views between the Orthodox East and the new Protestant West.” George Florovsky, “An Early Ecumenical Correspondence,” World Lutheranism of Today (1950): 98. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Florovsky, 1950: 98).]

8. The Lutheran pastors and professors of Tübingen who each signed at least one of the doctrinal letters to Jeremias are as follows: Martin Crusius, Lukas Osiander, Jakob Andreae, Jakob Heerbrand, Eberhard Bidembach, Johannes Mageirus, Theodore Sneppf, Stephan Gerlach, Johannes Brent, Gulielmus Holderer, and Johannes Schoppf. “Andreae, of course, was the principal theologian at Tübingen. Osiander collaborated with him, and these two may be considered the main compositors. Crusius translated their Latin drafts into Greek” (Jorgenson: 91-92).

9. David Jay Webber, “Augsburg and Constantinople: Review Essay,” Lutheran Quarterly 5 (Spring 1991): 99. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Webber: 99).]

10. George Mastrantonis, Augsburg and Constantinople (1982): 17. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (A&C: 17).] The value assigned to the Patriarch’s replies is not uniform; Jorgenson summarizes the various assessments:

Under the inspiration of Orthodox dogmatic scholasticism, Karmiris includes Jeremias’ Three Responses in the Dogmatic and Symbolical Documents of the Orthodox Church, of which he is the editor. Roman Catholic authors, likewise, assign a very high doctrinal authority to Jeremias’ answers, obviously because of his firm anti-Protestant stance. As for Protestants themselves, Heineccius, the eighteenth-century compiler of doctrinal statements of the Greek Church, affords great significance to Jeremias’ responses, which provide a “more complete conception of Greek Doctrine.”... Modern Orthodox theologians, on the other hand, question the very propriety of “Symbolical Books” in the Orthodox Church.... Timothy Ware, for example, agrees with “many Orthodox scholars today” who consider the very notion of Symbolical Books “misleading” and he prefers to designate Jeremias’ Responses as one of the “chief Orthodox doctrinal statements since 787.” What to Ware is important about the patriarch’s writings is that they present “the first clear and authoritative critique of the doctrines of the Reformation from an Orthodox point of view. (Jorgenson: 127-129)

11. Key resources on the Eastern Orthodox understanding of Theosis include the following: Craig Blaising, “Deification: An Athanasian View of Spirituality,” Evangelical Theological Society Papers (1988); Carr Collins, “Theosis: Deification of Man,” Diakonia 15 (No. 3, 1980); Agnes Cunningham, “The Witness from Alexandria: Athanasius contra mundum,” Communio 14 (Winter 1987); I. H. Dalmais and Gustave Bardy, “Divinisation,” Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 3 (1957); Ben Drewery, “Deification,” Christian Spirituality: Essays in Honour of Gordon Rupp (1975); Eleuterio Fortino, “Sanctification and Deification,” Diakonia 17 (No. 3, 1982); Jules Gross, La divinisation du chrétien d’après les Pères grecs. Contribution à la doctrine de la grâce (1938); Vigen Guroian, “The Shape of Orthodox Ethics,” Epiphany 12 (Fall 1991); Stanley S. Harakas, “Eastern Orthodox Christianity’s Ultimate Reality and Meaning,” Ultimate Reality and Meaning 8 (1985); Verna Harrison, “Some Aspects of Saint Gregory the Theologian’s Soteriology,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 34 (Spring 1989); Maurice Himmerich, Deification in John of Damascus (1985); Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold (editors), The Study of Spirituality (1986); Stephen Juli, The Doctrine of Theosis in the Theology of Saint Maximus the Confessor (1990); Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God (1974); Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology (1978); Myrrha Lot-Borodine, La déification de l’homme selon la doctrine des Pères grecs (1970); Georgios Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man (1984); John Meyendorff, “New Life in Christ: Salvation in Orthodox Theology,” Theological Studies 50 (September 1989); John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (1975); John Meyendorff, “Theosis in the Eastern Christian Tradition,” Christian Spirituality: Post-Reformation and Modern (1989); John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (editors), Salvation in Christ (1992); Panayiotis Nellas, Deification in Christ (1987); Keith Norman, Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology (1980); George Papademetriou, “The Human Body According to Saint Gregory Palamas,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 34 (Spring 1989); Symeon Rodger, “The Soteriology of Anselm of Canterbury, An Orthodox Perspective,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 34 (Spring 1989); B. Sartorius, La doctrine de la déification de l’homme d’après les Pères grecs (1965); Dumitru Staniloae, “Image, Likeness, and Deification in the Human Person,” Communio 13 (Spring 1986); Gregory Telepneff and James Thornton, “Arian Transcendence and the Notion of Theosis in Saint Athanasios,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 32 (Fall 1987); Nicolaos P. Vassiliades, “The Mystery of Death,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 29 (Autumn 1984); Kenneth Wesche, The Defense of Chalcedon in the 6th Century (1986).

12. “Lutheran/Russian Orthodox Conversations,” Lutheran World 23 (No. 3, 1976): 222.

13. A summary statement on this theme, stemming from conversations in 1977, opens with the following observation:

Until recently, there has been a predominant opinion that the Lutheran and Orthodox doctrines of salvation greatly differ from each other. In the conversations, however, it has become evident that both these important aspects of salvation discussed in the conversations have a strong New Testament basis and there is great unanimity with regard to them both.

Hannu T. Kamppuri (editor), Dialogue Between Neighbours (1986): 73.

14. From 1983 to 1989, the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue in North America -- “sponsored by the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod” -- “concentrated on the significant theological topics of divinization and justification” (Salvation: 7-8).

cf. Simo Peura, “A Review Essay on Salvation in Christ, A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue,” Pro Ecclesia 2 (Summer 1993). The “Common Statement” issued in conjunction with these efforts in the United States concludes in part,

If Lutherans can begin to understand and appreciate the Orthodox emphasis on deification (theosis) as communion with God, and the Orthodox can begin to understand and appreciate the Lutheran emphasis on the proclamation of “justification by grace through faith,” as we have done in this dialogue, then we have taken a significant step toward breaking down the wall of partition that divides us. (Salvation: 32-33)

15. Consider, for example, the remarks of Michael C. D. McDaniel, a Bishop of the former Lutheran Church in America, who writes in his essay for the U.S. dialogue,

While Lutherans speak of “faith” and Orthodox speak of theosis, both understand the Christian’s hope as “belonging to God.” The Lutheran concern to specify the means of salvation and the Orthodox concern for its meaning are two insights into the one unspeakably wonderful reality that God, by grace alone, for the sake of Christ alone, has forgiven our sins and given us everlasting salvation. (Salvation: 83)

Others are even more optimistic. One author writes, “While the question of the relation between theosis and justification must remain open at this time, there is no doubt that the Lutheran Confessions present a doctrine of sanctification which is compatible with theosis.” Henry Edwards, “Justification, Sanctification and the Eastern Orthodox Concept of Theosis,” Consensus 14 (1988): 74. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Edwards: 74).]

16. John Meyendorff, “Theosis in the Eastern Christian Tradition,” Christian Spirituality (1989): 470. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Meyendorff, “Theosis”: 470).]

17. “Theosis,” The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, edited by Alexander P. Kazhdan, et al. (1991): 2069.

[Ukrainian Roman Catholic theologian, Dr. P. T. B. Bilaniuk] defines theosis as sanctifying activity on the part of the Trinity whereby human beings are assimilated to, that is, either incorporated into or made like, God the Father, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. Three dimensions of theosis, “creational,” Christological and pneumatic, are distinguished. The creational dimension deals with humanity as dependent on God, as the image of God, and therefore, as ontologically good. The Christological dimension of theosis deals with the relation between the church and Christ’s salvific work. The pneumatic dimension presents the Holy Spirit as Christ’s co-worker in theosis. (Edwards: 67)

18. The discussion of Gregory Palamas is based upon John Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas (1964). [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Meyendorff, Palamas: ##).]

19. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (1974): 281. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Pelikan: 281).]

20. For a side-by-side comparison of selected articles from the Augustana Graeca and the Augustana Invariata, cf. the Appendix of the present work.

21. Considering that the Augustana Graeca was Melanchthon’s most variant of all variata (dating from 1559, just a year before his death), the following is worth noting:

The Augustana Graeca bears the literal translation of the 1531 text of Article Ten “on the Lord’s Supper.”... That Melanchthon moved toward a sacramentarian theology of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a commonly accepted fact. This modification is reflected in the famous 1540 variata, that “the Body and Blood of Christ are delivered with the bread and wine.” Furthermore, the 1540 variata drops the rejection sentence, “Et improbant secus docentes.” The Augustana Graeca not only retains the 1531 formulation with this sentence, but even adds a word of emphasis: “They censure all who teach otherwise.” (Jorgenson: 52-53)

22. Georges Florovsky, “The Greek Version of the Augsburg Confession,” Lutheran World 2 (September 1959): 153. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Florovsky: 153).] For a good, concise summary of the arguments for Melanchthonian authorship of the Augustana Graeca, cf. Jorgenson: 36-37.

23. cf. Constantine Tsirpanlis, The Historical and Ecumenical Significance of Jeremias II’s Correspondence with the Lutherans (1982): 6. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Tsirpanlis: 6).]

24. For a detailed chronology of the events that follow, cf. Jorgenson: 253-258.

25. Although Gerlach developed a friendly relationship with the Patriarch and his staff, his first impressions were not so good. As one author describes,

In Gerlach’s opinion the Orthodox were “papists almost at all points with the exception of the procession of the Holy Ghost, leavened bread, purgatory, and that the pope is not Christ’s vicar.” Gerlach likewise observed that their opinion of the Lutherans was not much higher: “They regard us as idle heretics who have nothing else to do but to pose idle questions. To be sure, they think everything has been decided in the assemblies of the fathers and there need be no further strife.” (Webber: 94-95)

26. For a detailed discussion of the events leading up to the beginning of the dialogue, cf. Jorgenson: 64-76.

27. It is significant that current dialogues are addressing and apparently making headway on precisely this issue of authority. In this regard, one reviewer discusses the recent statement of an international Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue commission that has met every two years since 1981. The statement, which was approved in July 1993 at Sandbjerg, Denmark, reads, “The teachings of the ecumenical councils...are normative for the faith and life of our churches today” (4), and again, “As Lutherans and Orthodox we affirm that the teachings of the ecumenical councils are authoritative for our churches” (7). Robert W. Jenson, “An Orthodox/Reformation Consensus,” Pro Ecclesia 2 (Fall 1993): 402.

28. English citations from the Augustana Graeca [hereafter abbreviated, AG] are taken from Jorgenson’s translation, provided as “Appendix III” in his dissertation.

29. “The Orthodox speak of sin as ‘fallenness.’ Humanity strayed from the path of communion with God and now finds itself in a ‘fallen state.’ This state is defined in terms of morality (since there is no authentic life apart from God) and distorted priorities, not by expressions such as ‘natural corruption’ or ‘inherited guilt’ as among Lutherans” (Salvation: 28).

30. Perhaps there is room here, as in the Formula of Concord, for the tangential and precursory contribution of free will to conversion. Because man has free will in matters pertaining to natural reason (cf. AG XVIII), he is able to avail himself of the external Means of Grace, in particular the preaching of the Gospel. God’s use of such means is what enables the unregenerate man to be called and converted by the Gospel (cf. Rom 10:17). The use of such means is also that which makes possible the resistance of God’s will. On these matters, the Formula states,

All who would be saved must hear this preaching, for the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are the Holy Spirit’s instruments in, with, and through which He wills to act efficaciously, to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to achieve.

The person who is not yet converted to God and regenerated can hear and read this Word externally because...even after the Fall man still has something of a free will in these external matters, so that he can go to church, listen to the sermon, or not listen to it.

Through this means (namely, the preaching and the hearing of His Word) God is active, breaks our hearts, and draws man, so that through the preaching of the law man learns to know his sins and the wrath of God and experiences genuine terror, contrition, and sorrow in his heart, and through the preaching of and meditation upon the holy Gospel of the gracious forgiveness of sins in Christ there is kindled in him a spark of faith which accepts the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake and comforts itself with the promise of the Gospel. And in this way the Holy Spirit, Who works all of this, is introduced into the heart. (FC-SD II: 52-54; Tappert: 531)

31. “[They condemn] both the Anabaptists and all others like them who think and teach that men receive the Holy Spirit by their own preparations and good deeds separate from and without the external word and the preaching of the Gospel” (AG V).

32. “In our traditions, differences of understanding have arisen with respect to a number of terms and phrases: ‘justification and sanctification,’ theosis (deification), ‘imputed righteousness,’ ‘image of God,’ ‘free will,’ ‘synergism,’ ‘sharing the divine nature,’ ‘nature,’ ‘grace,’ ‘sin,’ ‘original sin,’ and other expressions that bear on the Christian understanding of salvation” (Salvation: 18).

33. Gerald Bray, “Justification and the Eastern Orthodox Church,” Here We Stand: Justification by Faith Today (1986): 104-105. [Hereafter cited in-line, according to the format: (Bray: 104-105).]

34. Also, cf. the comments of John Meyendorff:

In the Eastern patristic tradition -- and also, indeed, in the liturgical and sacramental experience of Eastern Christianity, the world, outside of Christ, is seen as having fallen under the empire of Death. This experience is different from the Western, more legalistic, post-Augustinian, medieval conception of “original sin” which makes every human guilty of the sin committed by Adam in paradise. In the East, the consequence of Adam and Eve’s transgression is seen as a takeover of God’s creation by the one whom the New Testament calls “prince of this world” and who is also the “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). It is Satan who controls human beings by imposing death upon them but also by pushing them to constant struggle for existence and temporary survival -- a struggle that is, necessarily, at the expense of the neighbor: a struggle for my property, my security, and my interests. This struggle is, in fact, the very substance of sin, so that the liturgy of baptism begins with an exorcism of Satan. (Meyendorff, “Theosis”: 471-472)

35. A Russian Orthodox friend of the author writes, “that ‘salvation’ is by God’s grace alone, [since] the grace of baptism is given when have done nothing to ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ it. But then it is up to us to preserve undefiled our baptismal garment. If we do defile it, and we all do, we are restored by the labor of our repentance & emendment, along with the grace of God’s forgiveness & absolution” (Father Christopher Stade, House Springs, MO: November 1993). [It is interesting to note that Father Christopher grew up in a Lutheran home, being the son of Professor Stade (R.I.P.) of the old Fort Wayne Senior College. After “wandering” in his faith for a number of years, he was converted to Orthodoxy while teaching English as a second language in Greece.]

36. “The sixteenth-century Reformation of the Western Church was largely prompted by anxiety over sin, expressed in Luther’s searching question, ‘How do I find a gracious God?’ It focused in all of its theological aspects on the relationship of God to an anxious humankind, seeking the meaning of existence and the assurance of salvation.” William G. Rusch, “How the Eastern Fathers Understood What the Western Church Meant by Justification,” in Justification by Faith (1985): 131.

37. “The Orthodox think of one continuous process, whereas the Lutherans distinguish the initial act of justification and regeneration from the process of sanctification.... The Orthodox speak about the quest for ‘holiness’ as a process based on divine-human cooperation. God’s Holy Spirit, the ‘source of sanctification,’ bestows upon each human person the life of holiness made available in Christ, in the human nature he assumed for us. In a dynamic process, working ‘from within,’ the Holy Spirit leads human persons in the church ‘from strength to strength, power to power, and glory to glory’” (Salvation: 30, 31). Again, consider the remarks of John Meyendorff:

Satan, who controls creation through death and sin, is overcome by Christ’s resurrection. Here lies the hope, the freedom, and the ultimate joy of true and eternal life.... But salvation is not only a liberation from death and sin; it is also the restoration of the original human destiny, which consists in being the “image of God.” The full meaning of that expression, found in the Genesis accounts of creation, also becomes clear through the divine identity of Jesus Christ. Being the Logos (John 1:1), he is also the living model according to whom every human being was created. He is, therefore, perfect human because he is also perfect God. In him, divinity and humanity -- the model and the image -- are united in a perfect personal unity (“hypostatic union”), and humanity finds its ultimate destiny in communion with God, that is, in theosis, or deification. (Meyendorff, “Theosis”: 472)

Also, cf. a fine article that discusses salvation as Deification in the Eastern Orthodox tradition: John Meyendorff, “New Life in Christ: Salvation in Orthodox Theology,” Theological Studies 50 (September 1989). Meyendorff concludes this article with the following statement: “Redemption is not only a negative remission of sins but also and primarily a new freedom for the children of God in the communion of the new Adam.”

38. In fact, the real substance of the Sacraments is hardly discussed, since it is considered for the most part to be a point of agreement. Jeremias defends the use of seven Sacraments, and he touches on the purpose of each of them briefly, but there is no lengthy treatment. Yet, here is precisely where the clarification is to be made as to whether Jeremias has in mind the regenerate or unregenerate man when he talks about free will. In the few remarks that he does make regarding Baptism and the other Sacraments, there is some indication given that the subject of his theological discussion is in fact the man who has already been converted. (cf. A&C: 36, 47, 50, 186, 188ff., 190).

39. Compare two quotations from Luther, as cited in the Formula of Concord:

Dr. Luther’s excellent statement remains true: “There is a beautiful agreement between faith and good works; nevertheless, it is faith alone which apprehends the blessings without works. And yet faith is at no time ever alone.” (FC-SD III: 41; Tappert: 546)

And again:

As Luther writes in his Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, “Faith is a divine work in us that transforms us and begets us anew from God, kills the Old Adam, makes us entirely different people in heart, spirit, mind, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Oh, faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good. Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active. Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are.” (FC-SD IV: 10-11; Tappert: 552-553)

40. The first Lutheran response was signed by Lucas Osiander “in behalf of Mr. Jacob Andreae” and by Martin Crusius (Mastrantonis: 149).

41. cf. Bente (Historical introduction): 124-143

42. Compare also the confession of the Formula of Concord:

There is...a great difference between baptized people and unbaptized people because, according to the teaching of St. Paul, “all who have been baptized have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27), are thus truly born again, and now have a liberated will -- that is, as Christ says, they have again been made free. As a result, they not only hear the Word of God but also are able to assent to it and accept it, even though it be in great weakness. But since in this life we have received only the first fruits of the Spirit, and regeneration is not as yet perfect but has only been begun in us, the conflict and warfare of the flesh against the Spirit continues also in the elect and truly reborn. (FC-SD II: 67-68; Tappert: 534)

In many respects, it would be difficult to discern between this Lutheran confession of free will in the regenerate and the position of Patriarch Jeremias, especially if “regeneration” approximates the Eastern Orthodox concept of Deification. If the regenerate man does have “a liberated will,” even though his “regeneration is not as yet perfect,” then surely he does strive with the divine help of the help of the Holy Spirit to grown in grace and truth.

43. Compare the confession of the Formula of Concord: “It is correct to say that in conversion, through the attraction of the Holy Spirit, God changes stubborn and unwilling people into willing people” (FC-Ep II: 17; Tappert: 472). And again, “It is true that God does not coerce anyone to piety, for those who always resist the Holy Spirit and oppose and constantly rebel against acknowledged truth, as Stephen describes the obstinate Jews (Acts 7:51), will not be converted. Nevertheless, the Lord God draws the person whom he wills to convert, and draws him in such a way that man’s darkened reason becomes an enlightened one and his resisting will becomes an obedient will. This the Scriptures call the creation of a new heart” (FC-SD II: 60; Tappert: 532-533).

44. The second Lutheran response was signed by Eberhard Bidembach, Jakob Andreae, John Mageirus, Jakob Heerbrand, Theodore Schneff, Lucas Osiander, Stephen Gerlach, and Martin Crusius. (cf. Mastrantonis: 216-217).

45. Note the similarity of the Patriarch’s argument to the confession made in answer to the Flacian controversy, wherein Matthias Flacius had argued himself into the position of saying that human nature was itself sinful after the Fall. cf. Bente (Historical introduction): 144-152. In response to the Flacian position, the Formula of Concord affirms,

that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin, not only in the beginning when God created man pure and holy and without sin, but also as we now have our nature after the Fall. Even after the fall our nature is and remains a creature of God. The distinction between our nature and original sin is as great as the difference between God’s work and the devil’s work. (FC-Ep I: 2; Tappert: 466)

At the same time, however, the Formula also affirms,

that original sin is not a slight corruption of human nature, but that it is so deep a corruption that nothing sound or uncorrupted has survived in man’s body or soul, in his inward or outward powers. (FC-Ep I: 8; Tappert: 467)

46. The third Lutheran response was signed by Jakob Heerbrand, Eberhard Bidembach, John Mageirus, Jakob Andreae, Theodore Schneff, Lucas Osiander, John Brentius, Stephen Gerlach, William Holderer, John Schoppsius, and Martin Crusius. (cf. Mastrantonis: 314-315).

47. For the Lutherans, the position of Jeremias is an insult to Christ as Savior.

It is a matter lacking merit that our salvation be divided between us and Christ, as if we are able to absolve our own sins together with God in such a manner that a part of the achievement of the Mediator Christ would be attributed to us, also, and that it might happen to be said that we would in some way also be saviors, which would be an extreme absurdity. For the honor is owed only to the Mediator Christ and absolutely to no one else. (A&C: 254)

For Jeremias, the Lutheran position is an insult to God as Creator.

Concerning free will, it is first necessary, according to us, to consider that evil is not in beings, nor does it have its existence from God.... What then is evil? It is an innate disposition of the indolent soul having the tendency to oppose virtue and to fall away from the good. Therefore, do not examine evil externally, nor image some pristine nature of wickedness, but rather let everyone reckon himself the leader of iniquity in himself. (A&C: 303)

48. Jorgenson writes in his conclusion:

If at last we wish to pose the question “Who won the debate?”, the scale tips in favor of the Lutherans. Their argumentation was superior, their resources more plenary. “Who was right?” will be determined generally by one’s faith convictions and confessional loyalties. The Orthodox lacked the academic advances of the Lutheran: linguistic skills and acquaintance with the emerging historical criticism. The Lutherans, moreover, were well trained in apologetics; after two generations of disputation with the Roman Catholics their arguments were honed to find precision. (Jorgenson: 248-249)

49. “Faithfulness to the pure gospel does not necessarily include unyielding adherence to traditional western theological categories. Lutherans who are serious about trying to understand Eastern Orthodoxy must follow the example of the Tübingen theologians and attempt to communicate with the East in the East’s own terms” (Webber: 100). The same could also be said in reverse for Eastern theologians who would like to be serious about trying to understand Lutheranism.

50. Consider, for example, that the classic Lutheran treatment of Christology by Martin Chemnitz [J. A. O. Preus (translator), The Two Natures of Christ (1971)] draws extensively from the Eastern Church Fathers, especially from St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. John of Damascus. It is certain that for these ancient authors their Christology could not be separated from their soteriology. Note also that the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology were readily agreed upon in the Tübingen-Constantinople dialogue of the 16th century.

51. “You are in Christ Jesus, Who became for us...Righteousness and Sanctification...” (i Cor 1:30, nkjv).

52. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (ii Pet 1:3-4, nkjv).

53. Jorgenson translation, included as “Appendix III” in his dissertation.

54. Bente translation, as provided in the Triglot Concordia.



An abbreviated version of this paper was published in Logia, Vol. IX, No. 4 (Reformation 2000), pp. 17-28.


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