Master of Arts (MA)

Primary Subject Area

Religion, Biblical Studies; Religion, Clergy; Religion, History of; Religion, Philosophy of; Theology


Purpose: A major issue in every religion is the meaning of salvation. Although post-Reformation Protestantism claims to follow its sixteenth century founders' understanding of soteriology, modern Protestants speak: of justification solely as a forensic imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the writings of Martin Luther, Andreas Osiander, John Calvin, and Menno Simons to discover whether they viewed justification as a substantial work of God in the soul of the believer or as a purely external declaration of God. The writer chose these four men for four reasons. First, all four have abundant references in their writings to Christus in nobis, union with Christ, and becoming "bone of Christ's bone and flesh of His flesh." Second, they accused each other of having wrong understandings of soteriology and christology. Third, they are major leaders of the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anabaptist camps. Fourth, modern Protestants claim to understand and follow these leaders' insights.

Methodology: The Christus in nobis motif in the writings of these four men is examined, especially in relation to regeneration, faith and works, christology, and ecclesiology. Chapter one evaluates Luther's reaction to Catholicism and his attempt to develop an alternative soteriology. The study of Osiander's soteriology in chapter two provides an opportunity to examine the diversity within early Lutheran soteriology. Osiander claims to be following Luther and accuses Melanchthon of developing an un-Lutheran soteriology that emphasizes imputation. In chapter three the writer evaluates Calvin's attempts to distance himself from Osiander while speaking about both union with Christ and imputation. Chapter four looks at Menno Simons' non-traditional "celestial flesh" christology and its implications for soteriology and ecclesiology.

Conclusions: This study produced overwhelming evidence that each of these men rejects the notion that the past work of Christ, or the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ to the believer "from a distance," is a sufficient basis for justification. Diversity among the four men can be attributed to differences in christology and ecclesiology. Especially pertinent in this regard were differences in Lutheran and Reformed christologies and Menno's different understanding of both the incarnation and the church's relationship to society. Finally, one finds more emphasis on Christus in nobis, regeneration, and good works in sixteenth century Protestantism than in modern Protestantism.