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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 22, Fall 2002

Mary Gaebler
Pages 115-132

Luther on the Self

Luther's emphasis on the sin of pride, as it is confronted by God's justifying work in Christ, has resulted in a theology that has seemed to many to resist a coherent account of human agency. I argue, however, that important aspects of Luther's later theology have been obscured by a tendency to organize the whole of his theology around his important, but not exclusive, insight on justification. There are resources in Luther's later work, I suggest, that respond to important contemporary concerns regarding the problem of passivity. Over time, the increasing failure of alleged Christians to produce "good works" apparently turned Luther's attention more and more to the sin of sloth. Human agency, particularly as it is expressed in the Christian life, became a matter of growing importance for Luther, as indeed, it is for many today. One finds in the mature Luther an increased appreciation of the self, viewed as both valuable and responsible—as capable of agency and as the legitimate focus of theological attention.

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