Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

Luther (cont.) Christology, Doctrines of the Church and State. Zwingli.

We now come to something about Luther’s doctrine of Christ. He is interesting first of all in his method, which is quite different from the method of the old Church, It is, as I would call it, a real method of correlation., namely correlation between what Christ is for us and what we say about Him. The approach is an approach from the point of view of the effects Christ has upon us. Melanchthon in his Loci, his famous dogmatik, has expressed the same idea. The object of Christology is to deal with the benefits of Christ, not with Him and His nature besides His benefits. Luther says, describing this method of correlation, “As somebody is in himself, so is God to him, as object. If a man is righteous himself, God is righteous. If a man is pure, God is pure for him. If he is evil, God is evil for him. Therefore He will appear to the damned as the evil in eternity, but to the righteous as the righteous, according to what He is in Himself.” Now this is a correlative speaking about God.

Calling Christ God means, for Luther, having experienced Divine effects which comes from Him, namely forgiveness of sins. If you speak about Him besides His effects, then this is a wrong objectifying method.. You must speak of Him in terms of the effects He can have. He who has Divine effects is Divine this is the criterion.

What we say about Him has always, therefore. the character of participation suffering with Him, being glorified with Him; crucified with Him, being resurrected with Him. “Preaching the Crucified means preaching our guilt and the crucifixion of our evils.” “So we go with Him first servant, therefore now King, first suffering, therefore now in glory; first judged: therefore now Judge.” So you must act: first humiliation, in order to get exultation!” Together condemned and blessed, living and dead, in pain and in joy/” This is said of Christ and is said of us.

The law of contradiction, which we have discussed, the law of God always acting paradoxically is fulfilled in Christ; He is the key to God’s acting, namely by contradicting the human system of valuations. This paradox is also valid in the Church. It is, in its visible form, miserable, humble, but in this humbleness exactly as in the humbleness of Christ, we have the glory of the Church. Therefore the glory of the Church is especially visible in periods of persecution, suffering and humility.

Christ therefore is God for us, our God, God as He is in relationship to us. Luther also says: He is the word of God. This is the decisive thing, and from this point of view Protestantism should think Christology in existential terms, namely in terms of never giving up the immediate correlation of human faith and what is said about Christ, and not making Him an object where you discuss chemical formulas, between Divine and human nature; or biological formulas, between Son of God and Son of Man all this has sense only if it is existentially received.

Luther emphasizes very much the presence of God in Christ. In the Incarnation the Divine Word or Logos is incarnated. Luther’s doctrine of the Word has different degrees. First it is the internal Word, which he also calls the heart of God, or the eternal Son. Only this internal Word, which is God’s inner Self-manifestation, is perfect. As the heart of man is hidden, so the heart of God is hidden. The internal Word of God, His inner Self-manifestation, is hidden to man. But Luther says: :We hope that in he future we shall look to this Word, when God has opened His heart,.