The article by which the church stands or falls

Barend Kamphuis Doctor, professor emeritus of Systematic Theology, Theological University of the Reformed Churches (Broederweg 15, 8261 GS Kampen, Netherlands)

Kamphuis B. The article by which the church stands or falls, Religiya. Tserkov’. Obshchestvo. Issledovaniya i publikatsii po teologii i religii [Religion. Church. Society: Research and publications in the field of theology and religious studies], Saint-Petersburg, 2019, vol. 8, pp. 72–85.

doi: 10.24411/2308-0698-2020-00003

Language: English

Martin Luther said about the doctrine of justification: «Because ifthis articlestands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the churchcollapses». Later on, this became a sort of proverb, in Lutheran and alsoin Reformed theology: «justificatioest articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae», «Justification is the article by which the church stands or falls».In this article I analyse and evaluate this saying. First, I discuss its context. Then I mention some other articles that were important in the history of Christian doctrine. In the third place I highlight the danger of onesidedness. Lastly, I discuss the historicity of doctrine. Luther’s focus onthe doctrine of justification had its context in the specific circumstancesand problems of his time. In other times the church stood or fell by otherarticles. The focus on one article has the danger of one-sidedness: we mustbe aware of other aspects of the gospel, that always has more treasuresthan we can comprehend. It is our task to proclaim the gospel as an answerfor the questions and problems of our time.

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Key words: Martin Luther, Calvin, justification, doctrine, the Gospel


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