Full Text for Ritschl and Pieper on Subjective Justification (Text)

The Leuenberg Concord Translation by JOHN I)RICK~MER kience, The Bible, Evolution, :reation, And The Flood RAYMONDF. SURBURG rhe Outside Limits Of Lutheran Zonfessionalism In Contemporary 3iblical Interpretation HORACED. HUMMEL fie New Quest For The Sacred: The Witchcraft Craze And The Lure Of The Occult RALPH L. MOELLERING Ritschl And Pieper On Subjective Justification: A Comparison OTTOC. HISTZE Assistant Professor of Alissiotts at the Seminary a?zd Secretav of the Board of illissions, The Lz~thera?~Church -Missotiri S?.izod THIS PRESEXTA'rIOK IS AN ATTEJIPT to draw a compari- son betn-een Ritschl's understanding of how a man becomes justified before God ancl that of an evangelical Lutheran of the 20th centur!-. The 20th century theologian whom we have chosen follo~vs closely upon the heels of Ritschl in time, but is epochs away from him rvith regard to his method and some of his thought. I. Scripture, Pirper asserts, places before us a certain order of justi- fication ~rhich is unalterable, if God's plan of salvation is not viti- ated but carried to fruition. First of all, there is the objective side of justification or reconciliation that has ahead. taken place. This is an act of God, aside from man, while man was alienated from Him as sinner ant1 His cneni!.. It mas motivated solely b!-God's grace, which ma!. be espressecl in synonymous terms as love, mercy and kindness. "Grace," according to Pieper, "denotes God's gracious dis osition, which for Christ's sake He cherishes in Himself ton-ard Fsin ul mankind and b!- n-hich He in His heart, 'before His inner forum,' does not charge man with their sins, but forgives them." (I1,7). The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, Paul n-rites to Timothy. As Ritschl also says, Jesus has re-\-eaIed that grace. In addition it is revealed in the Scriptures in the Gospel. "According to Scripture, the message of the grace of God (Acts 20: 24) and the message of Jesus Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2 :2) are reciprocal terms and cover the same ground." (11, 19) Appropriation of saving grace is the subjective side of justification. Faith is the medium through which this is accomplished. Saving faith is in el-erv case personal faith. (11, 431) Appropriation of God's grace in Christ is not an act of the community nor contingent upon it, but is definitely a matter of each individual's inmost be- ing. His will and intellect are always involved in the act of faith, and his faith is a lot more than some "otiose quality of the heart." (11, 132) Faith is definitely an act of the individual, an actire apprehension of the forgiveness offered in the Gospel, "whether the person is awake or sleeping, whether he be an adult or child. whether under normal circumstances when he is conscious of his faith or in the severest hours of trial when he imagines that he has lost his faith." (11. 436-7) Faith ma\, be called a yassire appre-hension in so far as its "apprehendink is not effected through hu- man cooperation, but solely through God's operation. It I\-ould be wrong to place active and passive apprehension in opposition to one another, for faith is both active and passive, in the sense indi- cated." (11, 437) 11. Kitschl's construction of justification and its subjective side is presented in his summaries on pp. 13 9 and 19 1 f. in his great work, Tlze Christian Doctrine of Jzistificatiolz aurl Reco~1ciliatio71,111. (J&K, 111) There is also a very fine recapitulation that Kitsch1 hini- self gives on pp. 16if. I\-e take appropriate quotes as n-ego about our comparison with Pieper. One of the most obvious similarities betn-cen the tn-o systems, it seems to us, is the correlation of ethical conduct and justification. I11 both there is 110 moral life-style without God's act of justifica- tion or reconciliation. Roth men also speak of justification on God's part and that of man's. Roth consider them to be religious in nature, and closely related to the will. relation to the world about him figures into the thinking of both men, a relationship that is erer-cised through the faith of man. If \re return to the above-mentioned correlation between ethi- cal conduct and justification, we come upon one of the inajor differ- ences also between Ritschl and Pieper. Ritschl operates with a system in which there are tn-o foci, and the!- are the religious and the ethical, or justification and sanctification. He believes that "theology, especiallj- within the Evangelical Confessions, has laid very unequal emphasis on these two principal characteristics of Christianity." (J&H, 111, 10) Throughout his n-ritings he has en-deavored to keep the two in close correlation and to maintain a balance between them. Furthermore, he asserts that '(these tn-o char- acteristics condition each other mutuall!-," (J&R, 111, 10) and that the realization of the perfectly religious and perfectl!. ethical character of the Christian life "advances through the perpetual in- teraction of the two elements." (J&R 111, 13) Pieper devoted much space to the discussion of these two aspects of Christianity. He kept them separate, and yet he corre-lated them closely, as did Ritschl. But unlike Ritschl he did not strive particularly to maintain a balance bet\\-een the two. His em- phasis was more on the religious, the reconciliation effected by God. He did this to avoid turning Christianity into a moralism. Ritschl's attempt to correct the imbalance that he saw led him to la!-such stress upon the ethical, subjective side of iustification that he finally ended up with the same one-sidedness which he accused his opponents. Critics see his over-reaction as making Christiani? into a mere style of life. If Ritschl viewed these two characteristics of Christianity as twin foci, Pieper probably saw them represented as two conceiltric circles with a conlmon focal point. The common center would rep- resent God, the inner circle the reconciliation that He effected in Christ, and the outer one subjective justification. Both aspects have their origin in God. They are both religious in that sense. Ho1ve1-er, the inner circle is different in essence from that of the outer, in -- -- Ritschel rind Pieyer 28 1 that it represents n-hat God alone could do and has done in Christ. The outer circle represents what God and mail do as a result, and only as a result, of I\-hat God has done in the inner. The above discussion leads to another difference between the viewpoints of the t~o Ritschl considers less passive in men. man the whole matter of subjective justification. Pieper, along with Ritschl, seeing man as the one who receives and apprehends God's pardon (J&R, 111 174), in opposition to Ritschl, mill not gant any "self-dependence" or spiritual activity to man beforc his con\-ersion. In Pieper lnan cannot help himself in an!- --a\- toward his conver- sion and justification. In that sense he would bc considered purely passite b!- Ritschl. Pieper considers man spiritually dead in tres-passes and sins, with the result that he is alienated con~pletel!- from God. He cannot b!- his own reason or strength effect his own faith for his justification. \\:hen Ritschl speaks of the grace of God in the contest of justification, he refers to more of an absolute grace than Pieper. In connection n-ith God's pardon he uses such phrases as "the uncon- ditioned operation of God." (J&R, I11 174) Reading through Ritschl's discussions of the doctrines of God and Christ, one receives the notion that God's grace and Christ's work and death parallel one another in that the!- both have the same end. Although he speaks of the mission of Christ "as an effect of grace" and the dispensation of dil-ine grace as being "dependent on Hirn," (J&R, 111, 265), he continues to give the impression that Christ and God's grace were not eternall!. and inextricably tied together. For instance, we have these quotes: "Thus, by the i~teritwiolts ~.nZr~eof His 11-hole right-eousjiess, He determines the resolve of God to open through Him for beIie~-ers the dispensation of grace." (J&R, 111, 265) ". . . it is indispensable to trace forgiveness to Christ in the sense that He, as the Revealer of God, through His whole conduct inspired b!- love to men, manifested God's grace and truth for their reception into God's frllo~vship . . ." (JSiR, 111, 608) Ritschl's constant use of the phrase "Him \\-ho brings us the revelation of grace" (JSiR, 111, 167) underscores that impression. It is also heightened beyond ques- tion by his rejection of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ. (J&R, III, 429, 410-2, 481j Pieper. on the other hand, speaks of God's ordinate will that is based inestricabl! upon Christ and all that He did. He cannot speak of grace unless it is in Christ. From eternity God's grace to- ward His creatures was in Christ, and it was the grace of Gocl \\'ho appeared for the salvation of all men. Pieper would agree with Ritschl when he states that it is through a person's faith jn Christ that he "incorporates himself into the com~nunity of believers." (J&R, 111 192) Here both ~vould have in mind the one universal Church. Then Ritschl switches to a visible, local cornmunit? of believers when he says: "The forgiveness of sins or reconciliation with God . . . is not recognizable and opera- tire outside the community founded br Jesus Christ, and dependent upon His specific action." (J&R, 111, 607) Then he makes that community the onl!- place where, as a member, the individual "be- comes assured of his reco~iciliation with God and his Di\-ine son- ship," and he makes it both "the medium of our clear remembrance of Christ" and to exert "an impulse to the religious estimate of self which corresponds to the specific action of Christ." (J&R, 111, 608) Ritschl comes on strong with regard to the community. He attributes tasks to the community that the Scripture and Pieper wo~~ldgive primaril!- to the Holy Spirit. For instance, he speaks of thc community as being "the medium of our clear remembrance of Christ! and, in spitc of all defects of knowledge and of religious and moral practice, exerts an impulse to the religious estimate of self which corresponds to the specific action of Christ." (J&R, 111, 608) Ritschl's fear of' m!-sticism and his epistcn~ological presuppositioris will not allon- him to recognize the Holy Spirit as a Person of the triune God. Instead he reduces Him to a "principle." (JS-R, 154) In relation to God Himself, Ritschl's Holy Spirit is "the knowledge which God has of Himself" and "is at the sanie time an attribute of the Christian communit~, because the latter, in accordance with the completed revelation of God through Christ, has that knoml- edge of God and of His counsel for men in the \i~orld which har- monizes with God's self-knowledge." (JSrR, 111, 605 ; cf. also 2 73, 171) According to Ritschl, conversion, n-hich is the creation of faith in Pieper, is not accomplished by the Holy Spirit, but by an act of grace "in which God operates on one who is being con\-erted." (JGrK, 111, 156; cf. also 603) In comparison to Ritschl, Pieper affirms the Holv Spirit to be onc of the three Persons of the Godhead, and attributes the creation of faith, con\-ersion, to His working. To hiin He is also "the motive-power of the life of all Christians,!' in thc words of Ritschl (JtkR, 111, 6051, but 110t as "the pon-er of the complete knowledge of God which is common to belie\-ers in Christ" (J&R, 111, 605). He is a personal God, IVho is morc than "poiver of the complete knowledge of God," transcending the community. It is He U7ho is responsible for subjective justification and the new life in the individual. Pieper also accords the Holr Spirit, as \\-ell as the Father and the Son, residence in the individual believer in Christ. Here again Ritschl's fears and presuppositions forbid him to grant an!- such rcsiclence of the Trinity in man. IIe states in one place: "Besides, the conception of the z~7liomysticn, which without this false distinc- tion is untenable, lies outside the horizon of our Church standards." (J&R, 111, 21) Dcnegration of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as Person in the believer strikes down the many references in Scripture (Rom. 8:16, etc.) where the Holy Spirit is gi~en the special role of cre-ating the assurance of faith. This reductionism bv Ritschl is clearly un-Biblical, and contrary to the Rcformer and the Confession to which he so often appeals. He thereby undcrcuts considerably the assurance of the believer, that which he is so anxious to maintain. If we have assessed Pieper correctly, he n-ould decry this as a great loss for the Christian. At times Ritschl and Pieper speak the same language in de- 283 Ritschel And Pieper scribing the act of justification, as in such places where Ritschl speaks of God declaring a man righteous for Christ's sake. (JSiR. 111, 604) However, beneath this similarity in language there lies a dissimilarit!-of rien-points. God is, from the standpoint of His justice, conceircd of as a Judge \Vho in the act of justification de-clares the sinner pardoned in view of Christ's satisfaction of obedi- ence to the Law and suffcring its penalty. Pieper also closely con- nects justification to the grace of God and to His love and mercy, as does Ritschl. But Ritschl rejects outright the conception of God as Lawgiver and Judge in the act of justification. "The conception of God as lawgiver and Judge, it is true, has no direct bearing on the general idea of pardon, or the forgiveness of sins . . ." (JSrR, 111, 86) After demonstrating that 'ustification cannot possibl!- be re1)resented as a judicial act from t 4e analog- of the state, Ritschl concludes: "Therefore in whatever xvav we view the matter, the attitude of God in the act of justification-cannot be conceived as that of Judge." (T&R: 111, 90) Xow to turn to another topic-Ritschl and Pie er concur in their conception of faith as a matter of the $\-ill, an $ that it does "not include love to men, and, conceived as freedom from the Ian-, escludes all cerel~ionial conditions equall!-with any cooperating presupposition of a legal claim before God." (J&R, 111, 139) Both are sa!-ing that faith is the only means by n-hich the reconciliation of God is appropriated. But it is a different matter when it comes to being sored solelv by faith. For Pieper it is b!- faith alone n-ith- out any good I\-orhi n-hatsoever. Ritschl's sTstem is still plagued b!. his concept of interaction between the two foci and their "mutual conditioneclness." 11-hen Ritschl wrote of good works, he demon- strated the abet-e in this way: "As the disposition n-hich finds its motil-e in the supra~nundane end of the Kingdom of God itself comes n-ithin the compass of eternal life, therefore good \\-orks are, for one thing, nianifestations of eternal life; but further, accord- ing to the Ian- that the exercise of a pan-er serl-es to strengthen and maintain it, they are organs of eternal life . . . lIoreover, the homo- geneit! of both sides is shown by their peculiar interaction or mu- tual conditionedne:~." (T&R, 111, 518) In actualit!-, therefore, this is 110 longer being sa~ed solely by faith, but grants man some part in an act that completely beyond his capabilities. This inlpres-sion is deepened further by the folloxring discussion of the per- sonal con\-iction of faith by Kitschl: Faith in Christ can be expected only in niaturer life. As the general attitude which corresponds to reconciliation, it embraces all the particular acts of reconciling faith, patience, and hu- milit?, b? which our standing in grace is put to the proof. These are not something alongside of faith in Christ, or some- thing \\-hich nierely results from it, but arc the forms in n-hich faith in Christ is applied to the life which the belier-er leads in the ~rorlcl. (TkR, 111. 599) .AS for the nature of faith, Pieper certainly would include "emotional conviction" [J&R, 111, 101, 108, 598) in the sense of a mallifestation of saving faith. But whether he would raise its importance to the lel-el to which Ritschl raises it is doubtful. Ritschl seems to elevate "ernotional trust in God" to a criterion of true faith. In fact, he describes faith chiefly in terms of certaintj- n-hich is to be interpreted as "a feeling of pleasure" (1S-R, 142). or trust in Christ as "passionate personal conviction" (JSrH, 597). Furthermore, Ritschl augments saving faith with an element that n-e find neither in Pieper nor the New Testament. He !\-rites: "The individual can therefore appropriate the forgiveness of sins by faith only when he nnites in his faith at once trust in God and Christ, and the illtelltioll to connect lliritself ~l-itll tlle ro~rl~i~rrilit~ of beliel-en." (JSiR. 111; ~rnderli~lillgours) Here s comyletel>- nen- elernent of intent to join the cornmunit!- is folded into faith-a thing n-hich is contrary to one's own personal experience in com-ing to faith, and which Luther (contrary to Ritschl's interpretation of him) and most of the orthodox theologians did not do. In the two follolring statements of Ritschl he seems to give value judgment a place in faith that Pieper n-auld be 1-ery cautious about: The ground of justification, or the forgil-eness of sins, is the benel-olent, gracious, merciful purpose of God to vouchsafe to sinful Inen the privilege of access to Himself. The form in which sinners appropriate this gift is faith. that is. the emo- tional trust in God, accorlzpailietl b?. the c0111-ic-tior1 tlre rnlzle cf of this gift for olle's blessed~ress, which. called forth bv God's grace, takes the place of the former mistrust nhich n-as bound "p n~ith the feeling of guilt. (J&R, 111, 108; 1111d~rIi,ri1rgDII~<, To beliel-e ir. Christ implies that ire nccept tllr 7-alzie of ijrc Uiri~le lme, n-hich is manifest in His work. for our recon-ciliation with God, with that trust n-hich. directed to Him, subordinates itself to God as His and our Father: \.chereb!- we are assured of eternal life and blessedness . . . In so far as trust in Him includes a knowledge of IIim, this krrou-lcdge ?rill de- ter~rziire tlze ra111e of His IL.OT/Z for 0111.snlr~7tio11.(T&RI 111, 591 ; zrilderlinirlg olr rsj Pieper contends that fid~lcia (trust) is the constitutive elemcnt in faith. .As we read and re-read Ritschl we find him making solne sort of distinction between faith and trust, despite some of his state-ments to the contrary. (J&R, 111), 111, 139, 168. 192, 591) If this n-ere true, hc and Pieper's theology I\-ould part n-a~s. Ritschl correlates justification and eternal life in a special ef- fort, 1%-hich he thinks was "overlooked by the lutheran divines." (J&R, 111, 122) As seen above, Pieper places them in a close rela- tionship that resembles that of Ritschl. 111. In our comparisoll of the two men, we have found in general a number of points of agreement and disagreement. Both men have supplemented each other in some respects. But there is no doubt 285 RitscJtel And Pieper that RitschI has considered the whole matter of subjective justifica- tion in a more detailed and original fashion. But that is not to say that he obtained the same balance as Pieper, judging from our read- ing of the Bible. His categories and prcsuppositions led him into reductionism on the one hand and augmentation on the other. In his commentary on the statements of Scripture, Pieper naturally stressed some things that did not interest Ritschl, and left out others that were of great interest to Ritschl. \\'e admire Ritschl for es-pounding in such depth on so rerr an important subject. It is too bad that his writing contained the very serious deficiencies that it did concerning orignal sin, the Holy Spirit, the vicarious satisfac- tion of Christ. the relationship of objective and subjective justifica- tion, justification and sanctification, and others which did not come under the purl-ien- of this paper. Ritschl's most serious deficiency remains to be his handling of the atonement of Christ, failing to elicit the assurance that is in the fact that Christ for our sake was made to be sin, 11-ho knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. <2 Cor. 5:21) 1Yithout the New Testa-ment understanding and emphasis of this, we hare something less than what Christianitl- should be, something less than Ritschl had hoped to make of it.