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cloak of righteousness?

Discussion in 'Theologia Crucis - Lutherans' started by lutherangerman, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. lutherangerman

    lutherangerman Senior Member

    For some weeks now I have been thinking of this, and I am not sure what to make of it.

    First off, I don't even know if this is taught in Lutheranism, but I know it is usually taught in Calvinism.

    The point is, the believing christian never becomes righteous himself, in fact he only puts on Christ like a garment. This leads to some strange developments, for example I have read a calvinist woman write she thinks of the eschaton like that, that Jesus stands before her and that God doesn't look at this woman but instead only at Jesus because she is a christian, and so she is not condemned.

    Other churches like Catholicism or the Orthodox churches instead teach that Jesus makes the christian ACTUALLY and LITERALLY righteous. IE, we are not just covered by Jesus' blood which hides our unrighteousness but in fact we are indeed washed clean and receive a new nature which in time replaces the sin nature we inherited from Adam.

    There are bible verses supporting either position. There are verses that say we must put on Jesus like a cloth. Other verses say we become a new creation. Apostle John writes that we always have sin in us and should not deceive ourselves about that. Yet He also says that if we remain in Jesus, we do not sin.

    I think originally Lutheranism embraced a duality in the christian man, ie we are all simultaneously sinners and saints, and we can never escape that until after our death when Jesus perfects us.

    It's just hard to think of God loathing mankind so much that He just gives us a garb of righteousness while still hating anything about our old nature when it comes through. I mean, couldn't He do something about our real self so that we ACTUALLY become righteous and can have confidence in God? On the other hand, maybe there is something wrong with men becoming righteous in themselves, and leaving us be both sinners and saints kind of fits to the human more than making us completely virtuous. The bible says God consigns everyone under sin so that He can have mercy on everyone. God certainly seems to let our propensity to sin remain with us, perhaps so that we can sympathize with other sinners and those outside of the church? On the other hand, sin always brings damage and pain and distortions with it, so why letting these remain together with sin?

    But the main problem is in our relationship with God. I think in order for this relationship to be real, we must be able to be honest, we must be able to go to God simply as we are. But if the "cloak of righteousness" theology is true then God is never interested in who we are. He just gives us this cloak which He seems to venerate because it is His son, and that's it.

    Does classic lutheranism really believe this? How do they reason this problem? Is there something or some things which I am missing? I just want my Heavenly Father to really love me, not just Jesus in me, but just me. I don't want to have some dark sinful self which is always abhorrent and which never actually develops some genuine love for God!

    Thank you and God bless!
  2. AngCath

    AngCath Well-Known Member

    I don't think I've heard the phrase "cloak of righteousness" since I was a child, but what you seem to be describing is the difference between imputed righteousness (Imputed righteousness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) vs. the Catholic position of infused righteousness. The article I listed, even though it is wikipedia, does do a reasonably good job distinguishing between the two views of righteousness with arguments for and against.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2010
  3. lutherangerman

    lutherangerman Senior Member

    Thanks, Dunstan.

    My problem is that I just can't decide myself which view is right between the two. For example, I really dig the catholic concept of synteresis (the remaining spark of goodness in everyone). On the other hand I see much divine love in imputing righteousness to us if we can't have one of our own.

    If I simply watch and experience the people that I meet in my daily life, of whom many are not christians, I can't say they are all completely corrupt and rotten. They all lack faith in God, that is true, and I concur with God that they all need to pick up the faith. But I can't think of them being crude deservants of hell - as if there is really absolutely nothing good in them. That would just be against the truth.

    The way I think about it, the problem of humanity isn't lack of goodness, of which there is still a lot around (and I suspect this is because of God's acts of goodness and many small inspirations to goodness He gives many of us through the Holy Spirit). The real problem of humanity is lack of faith and lack of closeness to God, which is what Jesus, the lamb of God, addresses on the cross where He bears the sins of the world and carries them away.

    Once sin has been brought out of the way, God seems entirely pleasant to the believer and the believer, I hope, looks rather pleasant to God too. So the whole thing is about getting sins away. So if someone comes to God He finds that His slate is cleared. But because of the flesh, there is still sin in the form of our habits, and in the form of our wickedness when we yield to temptations of the world or of the devil or of the flesh. Justification is at the cross, but it's nothing conferred on us but rather just the taking away of sins and being made a child of God.
  4. filosofer

    filosofer Senior Veteran


    Howdy. There are two perspectives that we use (following Luther). One is from a horizontal perspective. Thus, you are correct in saying that some who are non-Christian indeed do righteous things, sometimes even to the shame of Christians. The vertical perspective is different; this is unseen by us because it is from God’s perspective. Thus, Paul writes in Romans 3, “None is righteous, no not one.” Nothing anyone can do will account for being righteous before God.

    The confusion comes when we try to insist that the horizontal view must dictate the vertical. “Surely if anyone deserved to be in heaven...” is often spoken at funerals and demonstrates this confusion.

    The other aspect of this is not a simple case of putting on a cloak. Rather, the imagery most often associated with this is the dying to self and rising to new life in Christ. And that is a daily process. The word (Law) kills us, and the word (Gospel) raises us up to life.

  5. Tangible

    Tangible πλήν βεβάπτισμαι

    Galatians 3.27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (NIV)