Background on the “Article by which the church stands or falls”

So here’s an interesting tidbit from Kim’s volume, Luther on Faith and Love. I’m sure that at least some of you, gentle readers, have encountered the stereotypically “Lutheran” notion that the doctrine of justification is the doctrine or “article by which the church stands or falls” (once more for the Latin-loving theology nerds amongst you: articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae). The interesting bit is that this formula cannot be found in Luther! Kim provides a footnote (which, coincidentally, is heavily indebted to Eberhard Jüngel) tracing the formula, and that’s what I share with you here. I’ve cut out the citations for ease of reading (and, honestly, I didn’t want to take the time to type them all…), so look it up in the book if you want to track these things down.

Sun-young Kim, Luther on Faith and Love: Christ and the Law in the 1535 Galatians Commentary, Emerging Scholars (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), 11n21.
T. Mahlmann explains that the expression . . . is traceable to Franz Turrettini. Mahlmann also mentions that the spread of the expression was contributed to by Friedrich Loofs’s “failed attempt at finding the origin of this expression.” . . . Referring to Mahlmann, Eberhard Jüngel also points out in discreet words that, although similar formulae are found in Luther and this phrasing has indeed been employed to signify a high view of this doctrine, the exact phrasing does not appear in Luther. . . . Carter Lindberg draws attention to the usage of this formula by an eighteenth-century Lutheran orthodoxy: “In 1712, Valentin Löscher, the champion of Lutheran orthodoxy, termed the doctrine of justification the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae.” . . . Lindberg comments that Löscher’s context differs from that of Luther’s. Consequently, although Löscher’s formula is “comparable in intent to Luther’s position,” since Löscher was speaking in the wake of a period of confessionalization, the church to which he referred in his formula was “the Lutheran church as a denomination.”
Turretin! Who would have thought . . .



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