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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Original Sin part 5

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Psalm 1:1–2

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Original Sin 

We have not only used the term concupiscence but have also said that the fear of God and faith are wanting. This was added because the scholastic teachers also, not sufficiently understanding the definition of original sin that they received from the Fathers, lessen the sin of origin. They contend that the fomes (or inclination to sin) is a blemished quality of the body, and with their typical ineptness, ask whether this defect was derived from an infection in the fruit or from the breath of the serpent, and whether it can be cured with medicine. With such questions they have suppressed the main point. Therefore, when they speak of the sin of origin, they do not mention the more serious faults of human nature like ignorance of God, contempt for God, having no fear and trust in God, hatred of God's judgment, flight from God (as from a tyrant) when he judges, anger toward God, despair of grace, and putting one's trust in fleeting things like money, property, friends, etc. The scholastics do not notice these symptoms though they are completely contrary to the Law of God. In fact, they ascribe to human nature an unimpaired strength for loving God above all things and for fulfilling his commandments “according to the substance of the act.” They fail to recognize that they are saying things that are contradictory to one another. For what else is it, if in one's own strength, one is able to love God above all things, and to fulfill his commandments, than to have original righteousness?

Pulling It Together

The Lutherans used the same terminology as the scholastics, at least when speaking of original sin, but they meant something else than the scholastics seemed to be saying. Scholasticism was a school of critical thinking in medieval universities that valued artful argument above all things. The better the inference to logic, the truer they considered the matter. Thus, the inference was made that if original sin was simply a disease then a medical treatment could be the answer. This approach strangles the voice of Scripture. It relegates the real point and problem to a place of silence. If artful reasoning is to be depended upon, then we may expect to end up anywhere. Indeed, the scholastics failed to recognize that they had reasoned themselves into a corner by inferring that human nature was capable, by itself, to love God and keep his commandments. By their reasoning, original sin had become a sort of original righteousness.

This would not stand with the Lutherans. Sin could not, of course, be righteousness. Nor was original sin to be understood as some malady that people could conquer with a little more industry. Not only did the symptoms point to something more pernicious, so did the Scripture. And the Word of God—not artful reasoning— was always to be their final authority.

Prayer: O Lord my God, bless my meditation in your word today. Amen. 

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You Can Understand the Old Testament: Its Message and Its Meaning by Dr. James C. Bangsund is an introduction to, and overview of, the Old Testament, exploring its meaning and its messagey. The book begins with the sometimes contentious question of why (and whether) the Old Testament is "old,"and then moves into introductions to each of its major sections. Individual overviews and discussions of each book of the Old Testament are provided along with helpful maps, tables, and charts, as well as complete indexes of subject matter, biblical texts cited, and Hebrew words noted in the discussion. The book is aimed at students of the Bible, whether members of church congregations, pastors, or students in college or seminary.

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1 Comments

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Katherine Harms

Posted May 9, 2015 at 10:48am

The Scholastics would get along almost comfortably with contemporary secular thinkers who accuse Christians of child abuse for telling their children that they are born sinners.

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