Incarnate Faith

A great difficulty with which American Christians need to struggle is the separation of religion and “real life” into airtight compartments. Religion is accepted as a purely subjective idea, but is not considered either true or false in an objective, public way. As a Lutheran interested in apologetics, this situation has always posed a special challenge. I am not altogether surprised that Kierkegaard—the philosopher often credited with introducing this separation into modern thought (though he no doubt would reject the extent to which it is now taken)—was raised nominally Lutheran. Of course, neither Luther’s own thought nor our confessions necessitate such separation; they express real salvation from real sins through a real Savior. Nevertheless, the central doctrine of the Christian faith—justification by faith alone apart from works—and many of its corollaries such as the fact that we cannot believe “by our own reason or strength” make strong distinctions which can be easily perverted into utter separation of faith from a daily life which inevitably involves our works and reason. Luther’s comments on “incarnate faith” in his Galatians commentary (AE 26: 265-70) represent a beautiful way of expressing Christianity in the realm of “real life” without in any way betraying its most essential doctrines.

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