Re-post: Predestination and Election, Staupitz & Luther…
Notes on Predestination and Election, Staupitz & Luther
John Staupitz (with Luther), Notes on Predestination & Election..
September 13, 2013
Luther claimed as an old man that Staupitz had taught him to distrust his own natural moral powers and to hold to a doctrine of justification which starts with God’s gifts to us rather than our gifts to God.
“Election is a sacred mystery and any attempt to reduce it to simple rational intelligibility will founder in the boundless ocean of the secret councils of God.”
Staupitz, when he ‘pointed Luther to the crucified Christ in the midst of his anxieties over election’, ‘and when he warned him of the dangers of a scrupulous conscience,’ he was giving sound but wholly traditional advice.
‘Election is not only an expression of God’s freedom, it is the sole guarantor of human freedom as well. The freedom [In Christ] to do good works and so fulfill the ends for which one was created depends on election. Without election there is no freedom, at least no freedom in the true sense of the word.’ (Staupitz, “Libellus”). And Staupitz is perfectly willing to admit that ‘a distinction should be drawn between effectual and ineffectual calling’, and ‘that Christ died for the elect alone.’ (Staupitz, “Libellus”).
‘Christ is far more than the basis on which the elect are saved; he is the goal toward which they are directed. The elect are united to Christ in justification and conformed to Christ by a lengthy process of sanctification.’ Indeed, ‘it is the very conformity to Christ which serves as one of the foundational props of the Christians certitude.’ But, he ‘insists there are no good works outside of Christ.’ ‘The decree of election is so intimately connected to the historical work of Christ in and for the faithful that it is impossible to talk about them in isolation from each other. To be elect at all is the be elect in Christ.’ Not even a formal distinction can be drawn between them, much less a real one.
In the end, Stauptiz, is simply but profoundly an Augustinian, though more of a so-called “Catholic” one. And for him, as for Luther, Christ died only for the elect, but there is no redemption for the elect apart from the actualization of the eternal decree in space and time. Election does not bypass history but rather guarantees the process of salvation within it. (Luther, WA 56.183.1-4) But no one ever accused Luther of being a systematic thinker or of showing great concern with logical order at the expense of substance. Indeed they both were true Augustinians!