Ben. Trying to pin down Luther’s view of Christ’s alien righteousness is more than a little difficult. Sometimes he seems to be talking as if the believer has as his Siamese twin, Christ. They are joined together at the hip, but all the righteousness is in the twin, and none of it is in the believer who still is stuck with being in bondage to sin. On the other hand, when Luther does talk about ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ he is still so concerned about keeping that righteousness ‘alien’ that it sounds like he’s talking about a metroyska doll— Christ is in us, and he has perfect righteousness, but we don’t actually have that righteousness or it hasn’t much changed our nature, it hasn’t really bled over into us the outer doll, we are still stuck with our sins, even though Christ indwells us.
On p. 191 you say the union with Christ doesn’t work on the basis of transforming of the existing self of the Christian. Luther insists on taking Gal. 2 hyper-literally. We cease to exist as that self, and Christ lives in us and through us rather like the opposite of demonic possession. Here is where a little training in Paul’s rhetoric might have helped Luther! Paul did not cease to be Paul when Christ entered his life. Yes the old passed away, and he became new creation, new creature, but Paul was still Paul, and still a ‘self’. He did not suddenly become Jesus! If all Luther means is that one has abandoned one’s previous self-centered existence and now has a Christ oriented one and self-sacrificial one, well and good. But when Paul says we have become new creatures, he is referring to a change, a conversion that affects human nature in various way, not just in terms of belief, but also in terms of affections, willing, and behavior. At the end of the day, Luther’s various statements about alien righteousness prevent him from having an adequate theology either of conversion or of sanctification. And yet, the quote on the bottom of p. 194 shows a Luther who is prepared to say faith changes us, kills the old Adam, makes us altogether different persons in spirit, mind, powers. One is tempted to say— Which is it Martin? Is the Christian still in the bondage to sin and the old self, or not? Comments?
At one level I find this immensely helpful. Perhaps I am just not very sanctified, but Luther’s concept of a twofold competing servitude where the life of Christ in the power of the Spirit is locked in combat with my enslavement to sin, seems closer to my actual experience of the Christian life than the concept of a steady, linear growth in holiness. However, there certainly are issues. If the self has died so completely, what are we to say about Paul’s continued use of “I” the first-person pronoun? And, even if his account of a two-fold competing servitude is realistic, what account is to be given on that basis of the growth and development of individuals in discipleship? So, I am not committed to the view that Luther is completely correct here but I do find his interpretation of Gal 2:19-20 stimulating to think about and also find in it a set of ideas that might give us valuable leverage in engaging with modern and postmodern senses of the self and identity. This is something I hope to pursue further in future research.