20 January 2007

Luther evaluates the Waldensians--their life commended and teaching critiqued

Table Talk No. 2864b

Luther commended the life of the Waldensians as the most upright of all: ‘Outwardly they live very honorably. They keep their passions within bounds as much as possible. They’re not arrogant. They attribute righteousness to others, for they don’t claim to be the only righteous persons. They reject the abomination of the mass, purgatory, the invocation of saints, etc. They have ministers of the Word who are celibate; these they permit to marry, but on condition that they give up their office. They don’t condemn marriage and openly confess that they wouldn’t shun married ministers if they couldn’t have unmarried ones. This is the way it will be with us too; if we want to have ministers, we’ll have to take burghers.

“Likewise the Waldensians are not lazy or given to drunkenness. They have the best pedagogy. But they don’t have the article of justification in its purity; they confess indeed that men are saved by faith and grace, but they understand faith as a quality that produces regeneration. They don’t ascribe [everything] to faith alone in Christ. They explain faith and grace differently from us, and at the same time they attribute righteousness to works when they say, ‘Faith apart from works is barren’ [Jas. 2:20]. If this passage is applied to morals and the preaching of the law, it is excellent, but if we connect it with the article of justification, it’s not so much inappropriate as it is ungodly.

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