The Hinge

Luther would not say that “good works make a person good,” but that “a good person does good works.” In other words, Christ’s righteousness—an “alien righteousness”—is imputed to us, and on that basis we then live out our Christian lives. John Calvin largely agreed and said that this understanding of justification was that on which the church stands or falls; it is “the hinge on which religion turns,” and all other doctrines are to be reassessed in its light.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 164-65

Captivated by Grace

One Lutheran theologian has defined sanctification as “the art of getting used to justification.” It is our being grasped by the fact that God alone justifies us by this unconditional promise. In other words, sanctification is the justified life, not something added to justification. The term refers to our being captivated more and more by the fullness and unconditionality of God’s grace.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 172

The Root of the Fall

The idea behind the command not to eat from one tree in the garden was really all about this question: Who will be at the center of the human creature’s world? Who is in charge? When Eve eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she decides that the human creature will be at the center—will be in charge. And in that sense the serpent had told a half-truth: she did become like God, knowing good and evil as God knows it, insofar as the creature has assumed the right to apprehend and legislate morality as a god. In that sense, Genesis’ point is that we end up worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. This is the autonomy that manifests itself so clearly in a desire to be one’s own god.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 140

At the Center

At the center of the New Testament stands not our religious experience, not our faith or repentance or decision, however important these are, but a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father—a life of shared communion, mission, and service into which we are invited.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 97