Luther-influenced Anglican David Zahl has a brilliant article in the latest Christianity Today about Luther’s distinction between Law and Gospel and his understanding of justification by faith. These teachings, Zahl shows, go to the very heart of what people are most struggling with today in contemporary culture: perfectionism, the need for approval, and the futility of self-justification.
These are all symptoms of living under the law–if not God’s law, the other laws that we try to replace it with–and the new high-tech information environment only makes the symptoms worse. (Zahl quotes a friend saying, “The internet is like the real world, only with all the forgiveness vacuumed out.”)
Luther’s breakthrough, that we do not have to justify ourselves–that is, attain perfection, or try to convince ourselves and other people that we are right and good–but that Christ justifies us, is as liberating today as it was 500 years ago.