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Joy of Justification

Joy of Justification January 2, 2015

In her contribution to Justification in a Post-Christian Society (52), Christine Helmer summarizes the work of Birgit Stolt, who has examined Luther’s vocabulary of justification:

“Through careful linguistic analysis, Stolt shows Luther’s doctrine of justification is not couched in the sterile dogmatic vocabulary of a cognitive appreciation for the distinction between law and gospel, but the word of justification elicits and joy that ‘jumps and skips.’ The affect that characterizes justification is joy, and the emotion is expressed in physical postures of dancing and leaping ‘for joy.’” There is a “palette of emotions” that includes “melancholy, anxiety, and depression,” but the accent on joy highlights “the emotional markers of the transformed self, open to new relations between self, others, and God.”

Rule of thumb to distinguish true reform from false: If it’s glum, it’s got to be off-kilter. Genuine reform is always joyful.


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