Since the recent discussion has erupted over my book, some have attempted to see my Luther chapter as somehow an attempt to give an extensive treatment of Luther's doctrine of justification. This relies on a misunderstanding of the purpose of the book. I will explain the reasons why this chapter was written, and exactly what argument is being made.
The book is on the New Perspective on Paul's claims regarding historical theology. The two areas I am addressing are 1. The NPP view of Luther as a purely forensic theologian whose sole concern is the distinction between law and gospel, and 2. The claim that Augustine changed the church's reading on Paul as if the pre-Augustinian church was not concerned about individual salvation.
The first chapter in this volume is not intended to be an extensive treatment of Luther's theology, nor of his doctrine of justification. Rather, it is an attempt to argue that Luther held to a more multifaceted soteriology than he is often given credit for. Yes, Luther held to forensic justification, the imputation of righteousness, etc. However, that is not central to the argument of this chapter because that is a given. I am not asking if Luther's view is forensic, but if Luther's view is only forensic. I use Mannermaa to argue that there is an element of union with Christ inherent in Luther's theology of justification as expounded upon in his Galatians commentary. I do not consider myself as part of the New Finnish School of Luther interpretation, because I think they downplay the forensicism inherent in Luther's theology, and they tend not to make a careful enough distinction between the early and late Luther. I make the point in this chapter that the early Luther can often speak of justification as a process, and that he sometimes conflates justification and sanctification; the later Luther is more careful, as forensic language becomes more predominant in his thought. However, whatever issues the Finnish school has, they have brought an element of Luther's thought to the forefront which has often been neglected: union with Christ. For Luther, Christ is present in faith itself, and Christ is in a vital personal union with one who believes. Though this union is not identical to justification for Luther, they are intimately related concepts which should not be severed from one another.
There has been a long debate in Pauline studies over whether the apostle's soteriology is forensic or participationist. Is it based on imputation of Christ's righteousness, or mystical participation in Christ? I am trying to show that in both Luther, and the fathers, this is a false dichotomy. For Luther, salvation includes legal terminology, imputed righteousness, etc. It also includes participation in Christ, and union with God. The legal aspects of Paul's soteriology are then shown to have been prominent in both Clement of Rome and the Epistle to Diognetus. The participationist motifs are prominent in both Ignatius, and Justin Martyr.
The whole argument is that the manner in which the NPP has interpreted Paul is not in line with the earliest interpreters; the way in which Luther has interpreted Paul, however, is consistent with Patristic exegesis. Though one would be wrong to label the fathers consistent Lutherans, the reading Luther has of Paul is more thoroughly grounded in Patristic exegesis and theology than is the NPP.