Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Early Catholic Response to "Freedom of a Christian"

I found this when I was doing research for my new article and came across this response to Luther's use of the mystical marriage motif in Freedom of a Christian. It embodies the Catholic problem with Luther's understanding of justification. It was written by the Dominican inquisitor Jacob Hochstraten in 1526:

Luther] lists no preconditions for the spiritual marriage of the soul with Christ except only that we believe Christ . . . and trust that he will bestow all [that he promises]. Not a single word is said about the mutual love by which the soul loves Christ . . . nor do we hear anything about the other divine commandments, to which the keeper of which eternal life is both promised and owed. What else do those who boast of such a base spectacle do than make of the soul . . . a prostitute and an adulteress, who knowingly and wittingly connives to deceive her husband [Christ] and, daily committing fornication upon fornication and adultery upon adultery, makes of most chaste of men a pimp? As Christ does not take the trouble . . . to choose . . . a pure and honorable lover! As if Christ requires of her only belief and trust and has no interest in her righteousness and the other virtues! As if a certain mingling of righteousness with iniquity and Christ with Belial were possible


  1. That is monstrous theology! No wonder Luther decried the Pope as the very Antichrist if he encouraged such theology.

  2. Brilliant! Thanks for posting this, Jack. This is a wonderful encapsulation of the base premise, not only for the Roman rejection of Luther, but the modern Evangelical as well.

  3. What a gem! Thanks for posting it!

    Grace and peace,
    Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

  4. More evidence that the proper distinction of Law and Gospel is absolutely necessary to truly evangelical theology.

    Pr. Timothy Winterstein

  5. This quotation show precisely why Luther's aberrant views had to be rejected by teh Church. The Bible knows nothing of a merely forensic justification without the transformative power of Grace. In the true marriage of the soul to Christ, she takes on the new life of her lover and savior and his love makes her beuatiful.