Hans Joachim Iwand was born this day, 1899, in Pisary, Poland. He became a remarkably influential theologian in the Lutheran tradition, though unfortunately few recognize his legacy today. Activly teaching during the Nazi regime, he was issued a Reichsredeverbot (gag order) in 1936 for his bold teaching and illegal training of pastors and theologians in Germany. After World War II, while serving as a professor at Göttingen and Bonn, he was tirelessly active in socio-political and ecclesiastical matters.
Contemporaries such as Karl Barth greatly influenced his theology, and he—like Luther—fervently believed and relied on the Reformed tenets Sola Fide and Sola Gratia, preaching a robust and active justification that relies solely on God’s work.
For the whole month of July, a recent translation of his Glaubensgerechtigkeit nach Luthers Lehre—or The Righteousness of Faith according to Luther—is completely free in Logos. Add this important volume to your library today, and don’t forget to pick up Brett Muhlhan’s Being Shaped by Freedom for only 99 cents. Get them both today!
Here’s an excerpt from the editor’s preface:
At the request of his friends to “explain the fundamentals of Luther’s theology in the most condensed form possible,” Iwand sets forth in accessible and compelling language the doctrine of justification by faith, which lies at the heart of Luther’s theological revolution and which propels the evangelical explosion of the sixteenth century into the heart and imagination of Christian preachers today. As Gregory Walter notes in his introduction, Iwand’s essay is organized around two concepts—promise and simultaneity—both of which are crucial to understanding the doctrine of justification as Luther set it forth. The language of promise presents justification to the believer as a reality that has yet to arrive or is hidden under present reality. The language of simultaneity provides the linguistic means to admit the “both/and” which is so crucial to acknowledging the realities that confront theological reflection, such as, for example, 1) the Word of God as both law and gospel, 2) the believer as both sinner and saint.
If these concepts seem commonplace among students of Luther’s theology today it is only a measure of Iwand’s influence in shaping contemporary appreciation of Luther’s contribution to Christian theology. Of course the danger of common place is that it can quickly become passé. We may be tempted to imagine that we have passed beyond the fundamentals to other more important matters. And there is no denying that for many, the existential and ecumenical realities of today constitute a situation for which the doctrine of justification is no longer relevant. But if that should be the case, then our situation, ironically, appears much the same as the situation which Iwand was addressing in 1941. In his words, “It could be … [that the traditional hold of justification] … on our inherited confession is weakening and we must ask again about what constitutes the basis for our confessional understanding. It could also be that we find ourselves in a time in which it is not very easy to support a division of the church on the basis of a confession … and that we ought to ponder once again the possibility of unity, since the confessional differences of the past do not appear to be as strong as they once were.” Iwand faces head on the questions and objections of his day: “Do we think that Luther has exaggerated this article … attributed too little to Christian piety and lifestyle … sacrificed the unity of the church by insistence on the centrality of the article. Or do we imagine that the article may be taken for granted so that we may move on to the more pressing social and political agenda of the real world?” Such questions and objections have a contemporary ring to them. But if there is a resonance between the present time and the time when Iwand’s study was first published, it can only mean now what it meant then. The questions and objections must be faced head on.
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