Nr. 251 (2019)

The Revolution of Grace
Martin Luther’s, Shri Krishna Caitanya’s and Guru Nanak’s Religion of Grace

Nr. 251 (2019)

Von Edmund Weber


Dialectical Theory of Religion
Three Concepts of Religious Culture
Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Grace
Shri Krishna Caitanya’s Eight Teachings on Grace
Guru Nanak’s Message of Grace

Dialectical Theory of Religion

Religion is mind’s (germ. Geist) dealing with its dialectical relationship of its two moments: the infinite constitution of existence i.e. the infinite mind, and the finite construction of existence i.e. the finite mind.

Both moments are contradictory to each other.

The constitution, the infinite and indeterminable mind – he may be called ground, foundation or ultimate meaningfulness – is He is deterring himself but never determined by or conditioned by something else. He is independent of all his constructing work or karma, of all finite products of mind.

On the other hand, constructing existence mind makes himself finite. The whole of his finite construction may be called culture, civilisation, or the whole human beings are producing in history.

The result of the dealing with this dialectical relationship of both contradictory moments, i.e. religion in its proper meaning, we call religious culture. There are two different results or religious cultures possible: Human beings can face that dialectical challenge or not.

Reducing the meaning of religion to traditional or even outlived symbolic items it would be insinuated that there could be found human beings not having the problem of existential dealing. Religion in the proper sense does not depend on its always changing cultural expressions. Important is the common and unavoidable impression of the dialectical relationship one may call oneself pious or atheist or whatever symbolic creations may be.

But the meaning of all those even contrary symbolic items is the same because human nature is the same. So radiational religious symbols call the infinite mind God the creator and the finite minds human creature. Concerning the meaning there is no difference. A difference consists only in the results of the existential dealing, in the religious cultures.

Three Concepts of Religious Culture

The result of dealing or with the dialectical relationship i.e. of religion as mind’s free basic act of existence we call religious culture. These ones express the respective results in cultural forms which are always changing and therefore very variable. Although religious cultures may have the same basic idea their sometimes extremely different expressions give the impression there is nothing identical or comparable between one’s own religion and that of other ones. On the other side there are indeed structural differences which people very often do not keep apart enough.

Throughout the course of their history the religious dealing shave speciate three contrary concepts of the constitution of human existence.

These contradicting basic results of existential resp- religious dealings are the religious culture of Karmism i.e. radical Righteousness by Work[1], Semi-Karmism i.e. partial Righteousness of Work, combined with support by some grace, and Kripalism i.e. Righteousness by Grace.

It is very important to keep apart these different concepts otherwise their radical existential differences of radical Grace and the two concepts of Karmism or Righteousness of Work will be in its radical and intermingling form covered or ignored or misinterpreted.

Very often religious communities start with a single concept; but over time the other ones will be introduced into the respective community and even takes over the religious leadership – still using the old terms but practising a completely other religious culture. To-day we see that even in Protestantism moralism or Righteousness of Work has Grace de facto driven out even if the word Grace is still used in liturgy and for official declarations.

According to the first concept; Righteousness of Work or Karmism; human existence gets its ultimate meaningfulness or foundation or constitution only by Works, by Karma i.e. by manifestations of life.

It is the concept of Moralism which is widespread and prevailing in all religious cultures today. Moralism openly or hidden influences and even dominates more and more all religious communities including self-styled non- or even anti-religious ones.

According to the second concept, Grace, humans have got their ultimate meaningfulness only by God’s Grace. This has no beginning and has no end. In other words: culture or one’s own creations – they may be intellectual ideas, moral actions or enthusiastic feelings – cannot provide existential truth or ultimate meaningfulness. Reason is that Grace is as constitution of existence total and there is nothing completing or competing.

In this respect even good works misused as means of constituting existence would be – using a traditional Western term – sin. Sin means the conviction that one’s own constitution basically depends on one’s own performances of life, of one’s own construction of existence.

On the level of Law the same religiously misused and therefore worst Work can be an extremely good one.

However, modern world culture of Moralism and Karmism are trying to marginalise Grace or repurposing her into an aid if work is too weak to achieve a moralist Pseudo-Constitution.

According to the third concept of Semi-karmism or Semi-Moralism ultimate meaningfulness one must acquire by Karma aor Work. But this concept assumes all human efforts to get salvation or meaningfulness for insufficient and sees humans in need of supranatural supplementation.

We call this concept the sem-karniistic or semi-moralist one because Law fulfilling Work or Karma is a necessary element of constituting existence. In this concept so-called grace deserves only as helper to satisfy the Law; Law understood as the organising principle of self-creating constitution.

To some extent such concept can be found even in many traditionally shaped religious communities.

The most prevailing concept is the first one. Many modern consciousnesses completely ignore or even deny any alternative to its moralist or karmistic view of existence.

Because of the actual dominance of moralist or karmistic religions at least religious research should prevent the forgetting of the religion of radical Grace; otherwise this idea will be completely put out of mind. Therefore, one should pay special attention to religious cultures dealing with Grace as constitution of existence.

For this reason this paper will deal with the concept of Grace; how it looks like in the doctrines of Martin Luther, Shri Krishna Caitanya and Guru Nanak, the leading initiators of their respective religions: All these three religions i.e. Protestantism, Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Sikhism were originally founded on the concept of total Grace. All three ones arose in the 16th century – a century which was one of the most important times of religious history because after centuries of Karmism and Semi-Karmism a revolution of Grace finally succeeded.

Human consciousness became aware of the infinite mind as the true ground of existence. All the traditional and outlived constructions of so-called divine or so-called natural orders blocking the necessary change and progress of science, social conditions, economic development and culture in general. On the long run Grace of infinite mind understood as constitution of existence religiously created the conditions for a revolution of cultural construction i.e. the abolition of the outlived and the legitimation for a new one.

Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Grace

At first, we will deal with the revolution of Grace initiated by the Western Protestant Reformation.

The Roman-Catholic Church of those times followed the semi-karmistic concept. The Church of Jesus Christ, the so-called Cathars, had followed – before extinguished by the Roman Inquisition –a strong karmistic way including the doctrine of reincarnation- The ideas of both religions were radically confronted with a revolution of Grace.

The religious leader of this Western revolution of Grace was the well-known Martin Luther (1483-1546). He was a contemporary of the founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak and the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism Shri Krishna Caitanya:

Although all three didn’t know one another, their message was very similar.

Martin Luther realised Grace is the only and true constitution of human existence:

[G]ratis dat fundamentum – (God) gives the foundation (i.e. constitution of existence) free of charge.[2]

In the eyes of God, the human beings are just and right by God’s Grace.

This implies, true existential foundation does not depend on any human work, any karma, on any manifestations of life. And a semi-karmistic collaboration of God and man is a useless and a basic sin against God’s Grace, too. Therefore, both models had been completely out of question.

If Grace alone is the true constitution the observance of Divine Law has got a new existential task. According to Martin Luther the mission of Divine Law consists only in ruling and regulating the relationships between people. Only God’s Grace is responsible for salvation i.e. true constitution. God’s given salvation being free of charge and therefore works being useles God’s Grace can become aware which awareness is called faith. However, we must hold on: awareness or faith does not cause salvation otherwise this perception of Grace would be turned into an its absolute opposite – a process which is prevailing in history again and again.

Therefore, it is very important to notice Martin Luther’s understanding of the divine task of Law:

The Apostle Paul wants that the human being lives with the people by virtue of the law,

but that the justified[3] one lives with God by virtue of faith. i.e. that justice, life and salvation is in faith. Justice is not prior to faith but with faith is justice and life. [4]

According to martin Luther Law, Justice, and works have only to regulate and execute the construction of existence; with other words it is their task to organise and realise people’s living together.

However, the living with God which is constituted by Grace of which one can get awareness of faith. Martin Luther decisively denies that works according to justice and Law are to be done before faith can happen. Such works are e.g. baptism, confession, holy communion, morally good deeds etc.

Like Grace is free, so faith too. Both happen without any pre-condition. Therefore, To become aware of Grace as constitution of existence does need any karmistic requirements.

Paul preaches such a faith which according to the Gospel the Holy Spirit (of God) puts into the hearts of the hearers and saves it.[5]

In order to clarify that faith is no salvation earning moral work, he argues the Holy Ghost i.e. gives faith; faith is not a product of human will.

Confirming his anti-karmistic position Martin Luther unambiguously determines:

One who does work (in order to gain salvation), he may be holy, wise,
just, whatever he wants, if faith is missing, he remains under the wrath and is damned.[6]

Mediaeval theology before Martin Luther understood that faith as highest and most effective work man must do if he wants to get salvation.[7] Fides,

Therefore, Martin Luther decisively insisted on strictly keeping apart the radically different meaning of both terms.

According to Holy Scripture faith in the proper sense is not our work but a work of God. In the proper sense something is called work which relates to law. Therefore, faith is not a work because it relates to the promise (i.e. of God’s no work demanding Grace).[8]

Just as faith is a gift of God so loving God is a Grace only, too:

It is only God’s business to give the faith against nature[9], against reason and believing.[10] It is only God’s work That I love him.[11]

In his time within the traditional religion people were convinced that human being could live by their nature and loving him in fact they become a friend of God, i.e. get salvation. Insofar that human finite work, a moment of existential construction, tried to replace Grace as constitution of existence:

In other words, if no work justifies (human being in God’s eyes) even faith would not justify if faith would be a work.[12]

But faith is just the opposite.

Luther uncompromisingly rejects karmistic or moralist interpretation of true constitution. The ground of existence is free Grace and nothing else. And therefore, he rejects the understanding of faith as a from law demanded work.

As human beings are not drove controlled, they can follow their will. Having free will one needs a regulator otherwise its life will not work. This regulator for the construction of existence is as we have seen above the God given Law.

But who the authorised interpreter of Law? Is that a pope or a council of bishops or any other religious body or person? The interpreter is the God given reason only. Al human beings participate on that gift of God_– even the heathen:

If the heathens – although corrupt in their nature – had been able to have an imagination of God, then the law could come out of themselves.[13]

But this reason is not at all a fixed and unchangeable program of actions and behaviour. According to necessity of actual life reason must produce flexible rules and ideas which secure the living together of mankind. Somewhere Martin Luther said: If necessary, let us make new decalogues.[14]

Against contemporary prejudice Martin Luther has called reason the most important gift God has given for the reasonable construction of existence.

Elsewhere he praises reason profusely: In fact, it’s true the reason is the main thing of everything, in comparison with the best one in comparison with the other things of this life and something Divine.[15]

But because of its liberty human will can follow reason or not.

However, reason and laws; and all other decisions of the will deserve only the construction of life. Will and its works can never constitute human existence. According to Martin Luther Constitution of existence means the whole of culture and organisation of existence, all ideas, actions and feelings which make up that life.

The human infinite mind and finite will by work construct existence, but their constitution is Grace alone becoming aware as faith.

Since the 19th century Moralism or Karmism and Semi-Karmism have overtaken the religious leadership and have pushed back the concept of Grace even I most of in the Protestant Churches and communities so that the idea of Grace is almost only surviving in the liturgy and in documents of the traditional doctrine.

[1] Righteousness or Justification by Works are technical terms of Protestant theology which mean the conviction that human beings are completely or partially justified or by God on reason of their own good and just works. The other technical term, Righteousness or justification by Grace, means just the opposite: the human beings are justified by God’s work, by his unconditionally given Grace; they are right and just in the eyes of God  even if they are  are religious sinners and according Law a lawbreakers.  The Righteousness of Grace is not ruling the world;; that is the business of Law.

[2]Dr. Martin Luthers Werke. Weimarer Ausgabe (= WA) 56. Der Brief an die Römer, S. 110.

[3] The ‘justified’ one means the human being which is conscious of the truth that the constitution of existence consists in ‘Grace only.

[4]WA 2, In epistolam Pauli ad Galatas conimentarius. (commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians), 516

[5] WA 39 I, Thesen für die Promotionsdisputation von Hieronymus Weller und Nikolaus Medier. Thema: (Subject) Arbitramur hominem iustificari fidie absque opcribus legis (We believe the human beings is justified without the works of Law). De fide (On Faith). S. 45,Nr. 15

[6] WA 39 I: Thesen für die Promotionsdisputation von Hieronymus Weller und Nikolaus Medler. Thema: Arbitrarmur hominem iustificari fidie absque opcribus legis, S. 48

[7] Faith, lat. fides is originally a term of the foundation of the Feudal Society and means loyalty. Loyalty is the work of the feudal lord on the one side and on the other side of the feudal peasant to guarantee a specified stable relationship. In this way the Roman Church understood the relationship of God and human beings. However, Martin Luther gave that term a completely different meaning. It is a present of God’s Grace and not a work for getting a reward.

[8] Drews, Paul: Disputationen Dr. Martin Luthers in d. J. 1535-1545 an der Universität Wittenberg gehalten, 1895, S. 42

[9] According to martin Luther the nature of human being consists in fact in constituting existence by one’s own work.

[10] In contrast to faith (lat. fides in the sense of Martin Luther)) believing (lat. credere) means voluntary accepting the doctrines of the Roman Church.  In that Church these mental activities were understood as religious works by which one could get merits for salvation.

[11] WA 39/1, S.90

[12] WA 39/1, S.91

[13] Drews, Paul: Disputationen Dr. Martin Luthers in d. J. 1535-1545 an der Universität Wittenberg gehalten, 1895, S. 55

[14] Decalogue means The Ten Commandments understood as God’s Law at all

[15] [15] WA 39/1; S. Disputation De homine (Disputation on the Human Being), S. 175.

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