Martin Luther, OSAS

What is Martin Luther’s view of salvation?

  1. I have read that the addition of faith “alone” in scripture was appropriate at least within the context of the German language, and that Pope Emeritus Benedict VI said that Luther was not wrong for doing so. So when Martin Luther said “sola fide” he didn’t mean this as a collective term of faith/hope/charity that would normally make it acceptable for Catholicism right, so Martin Luther’s sola fide really means the modern day form of “faith alone” in protestant circles? Also the fact that there is a Joint Declaration on Justification from the Lutheran and Catholic Church, although I assume this only deals with points they agree on, not that they agree on everything regarding justification. I just want confirmation that Martin Luther himself (not necessarily Lutheranism) believed in faith alone as modern protestants believe, and is not a semantic issue on justification with Catholicism.

  2. Did Martin Luther ever believe in Once Saved Always Saved, or is this only from John Calvin and the Reformed Tradition?

Great question.

Just a comment that the LCMS and WELS did not sign the Joint Declaration on Justification.


Indeed. And many before Luther translated Romans 3:28 the same way.

So when Martin Luther said “sola fide” he didn’t mean this as a collective term of faith/hope/charity that would normally make it acceptable for Catholicism right, so Martin Luther’s sola fide really means the modern day form of “faith alone” in protestant circles?

Luther would have said that hope and charity were necessary fruits of faith. However, he would have said that faith is the sole instrument whereby the righteousness of Christ is appropriated to the Christian. Hope and charity do not seize upon the promises of the gospel. Only faith does. In that sense, and that sense only, faith alone justifies. Saying that hope and charity do is putting the ox before the cart.

  1. Did Martin Luther ever believe in Once Saved Always Saved, or is this only from John Calvin and the Reformed Tradition?

No. He (and the Lutheran Confessions themselves) deny this unequivocally.

Exactly as Per Crucem has noted. Here it is from Luther’s own pen:

        Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream 
   is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by 
   good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they
   speak and hear much about faith. ``Faith is not enough,'' they
   say, ``You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.''
   They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working,
   creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, ``I
   believe.'' That is what they think true faith is. But, because
   this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything
   from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this
   `faith,' either.
        Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives 
   new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us
   completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits,
   our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with
   it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this
   faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't
   stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone
   asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without
   ceasing.  Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an
   unbeliever.  He stumbles around and looks for faith and good
   works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are.
   Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many
        Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of 
   God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.
   Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy,
   joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The
   Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you
   freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve
   everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who
   has shown you such grace. **Thus, it is just as impossible to
   separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from
   fire!** Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard
   against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they're smart enough
   to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools.
   Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without
   faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith: An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546. Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith, from DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 (Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125] August 1994

And, even though you did not ask, someone will. :smiley: Lutheranism has not departed from this simple message, which we understand to have always been the teaching of the church catholic:
Simple WELS explaination (final paragraph)
Simple LCMS explaination (Page 13)

So while the Lutheran understanding is very similar to today’s Roman Catholic understanding, I’m not sure it can be dismissed as a simple issue of semantics (the WELS, ELS and LCMS did not think so, either. Hence no signature on the JDDJ). That’s also why Rome couldn’t totally agree with the JDDJ without its own Annex.

Hello kmon23 - can you please clarify what you mean by ‘the modern day form of “faith alone” in protestant circles’? My experience with ‘modern day … protestant circles’ is that their definition of faith alone is far different from the Reformation doctrine of sola fide.

By faith alone in the modern sense of the word, I mean that “faith” is what saves someone (not necessarily OSAS), and that “works” are just the results of a faith that is saved/being saved, but that “works” have no bearing on the salvation itself.

We try to be precise when discussing it (to a fault, at times). Works have a whole LOT to do with salvation. We are saved for the purpose of doing them. They have nothing to do with justification, however - which is only one slice of salvation. That us given to us freely by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

This is the Reformation doctrine that Luther articulated and the historic Protestant doctrine of sola fide.

Be wary, however: there are many people who say they believe in “faith alone” who, if you ask them, will essentially speak of this faith as if it is the one work man must do to earn salvation. On the contrary, Luther taught that faith itself is a gift, wrought in man by God’s grace alone.

Luther and Lutheran churches do NOT teach eternal security.
although Justification/Sanctification is looked at differently as opposed to Catholicism,
the church I attend(WELS) teaches it is indeed possible to lose your salvation through creeping unbelief, falling away from God.
Protestantism in general is divided between churches that do teach OSAS and those that don’t.

Luther believed in faith alone, but that needas to be clarified. First, faith for Luther is not ‘naked faith.’ It is “faith working through love,” as St. Paul put it (Gal. 5:6). This doesn’t mean faith + works, but a faith which will manifest itself through works (which, as far as I’m aware, is also the Roman Catholic teaching, as Pope Benedict pointed out a few years back). Second, sola fide refers to justification, specifically, and the sentence is iustificationem sola fide, “justified through faith alone.” The interesting part is that this can be seen in two different ways. Is sola an adjective modifying the noun (fide) or an adverb modifying the verb/participle (iustificationem)?

If the former, then we are justified by a faith that is alone (thus NOT a faith “working through love”). If the latter, then we are justified by faith alone, but not necessarily a faith that is alone (thus a faith “working through love”).

There is no indication, in Confessio Augustana and Luther’s Small Catechism that the former is the correct reading, but there is an strong emphasis on living the Christian life (see here, here, and here). We can then conclude that faith alone for Luther means that we are justified by faith alone, but that this faith is a faith given to us from God, who also poures his love into us (cf. Rom. 5:1-5, Gal. 5:6).

I’m not so sure that even John Calvin believed in this. Luther certainly did not, as we see from the first point, and the fact that he thought salvation could be lost.

Well, that depends on who you ask, and what is meant by ‘salvation.’

I maintain that justification comes by faith alone (a faith that ‘works through love’), but that salvation is more than just justification, but also sanctification.

But that doesn’t really tell us anything, since he also taught that any given good work is a gift, wrought in man by God’s grace alone (cf. Phil. 2:12-13).

What we need to see, is that God is always the giver, man is always the receiver, even when he gives. Man gives only what he has received, and he gives it because God is at work in him. But that is not found only in Lutheranism. I recommend some articles by Knut Alfsvåg, a Norwegian Lutheran theologian who shows that Luther had similar views to St. Maximus the Confessor (a 5th-7th century Eastern theologian), and Nicolaus Cusanus (a 15th century Roman Catholic theologian, cardinal, Prince-Bishop and vicar general in the Papal States). For those who have access to EBSCOHOST, some of his articles are easily available:

*]“God’s fellow workers: The understanding of the relationship between the human and the divine in Maximus Confessor and Martin Luther” (Studia Theologica - Nordic Journal of Theology 62:2, 2008): 175-193.
*]“Postmodern Epistemology and the Mission of the Church” (Mission Studies 28:1, 2011): 54-70, esp. 60-68.
*]“Explicatio and Complicatio: On the Understanding of the Relationship between God and the World in the Work of Nicholas Cusanus” (International Journal of Systematic Theology 14:3, 2012): 295-309.
*]“On the Unexpectedness of Salvation in Maximus, Cusanus, and Luther” (Lutheran Quarterly 26:3, 2012): 271-294.

What is your opinion of the JDDJ, and how close do you think Catholics and Lutherans are to healing this aspect of the Reformation?

I used to dismiss the JDDJ as a typical “ecumenical” document, full of doublespeak and essentially worthless. After all, the Catholic Church’s soteriological point of view was clearly just a poorly-disguised form of Works Righteousness, and the Magisterium was simply benefiting from its centuries-long “reaching God through guilt” campaign. :o

That was, until I stumbled across Pope Benedict’s wonderful, clear words of Gospel. Blot out the name, and the words spoken at that audience could just as easily have been written by a Preus. Turns out today’s Catholicism doesn’t teach a single ounce of Works Righteousness, the Magisterium preaches Gospel, not guilt, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI might just be a crypto-Lutheran. :smiley:

In all seriousness, I still have my issues with the JDDJ, but Benedict’s words have forced me to reconsider that document’s value and given me hope that corporate reunion, Holy Spirit willing, might not be impossible.

It might have some potential, and its first part is excellent. But it doesn’t really get us all the way (especially when we come to the latter part where the respective parter describe their views). But it needs to be pointed out that the Roman Catholic views is NOT (and, AFAIK, never have been) that you are justified by faith + works, but that the faith which justifies IS a faith that works (to use a lame pun).

But there is, of course, differences. For Luther, faith is primarily the grasping of Christ in trust, while Roman Catholics do also maintain that the faith that justifies includes holding (or at least not opposing) the deposit. So the faith that justifies is both trust and belief. I have to say that I side with Rome on this question, especially since Paul does emphasise faith BOTH as trust AND as a intellectual grasping of the truths of faith (especially in the Pastoral epistles).

So, if you had to choose one issue - the biggest issue - that prevents you from swimming the Tiber, what would it be?

Well put, Don. I might also add that, more than the JDDJ, I think the canons of the Council of Orange (529), could be a point of convergence on the doctrine of justification between Catholics and Lutherans.

The ground upon which we agree is, ISTM, grace.


Now, if only the magisterium had known the canons existed prior to the Reformation, perhaps the Reformation would’ve been unneccessary. :shrug:

Read the former pope’s writing closely. Benedict is restating the Tridentine doctrine of justification as the process of being infused with the righteousness of Christ. A man is just, under this scheme, only when righteousness truly inheres in him.

The key Lutheran and Protestant doctrine of imputation, and the Christian’s consequent simul iustus et peccator condition, is thus excluded.

Well, that is certainly how the doctrine developed historically in many Lutheran and Protestant circles, but it can’t be read directly out of neither Luther’s Small Catechism nor Confessio Augustana.

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