Studies in Christian Ethics 33 (1):15-26 (2020)

Abstract
Jennifer Herdt argues that Luther’s account of human ethical action implies an absolute passivity before God that both leads to psychological paralysis and fails to appreciate the non-competitive nature of the relationship between divine and human agency. This article argues that neither accusation can be sustained. Not only does Luther’s work lack any evidence of the paralysis Herdt ascribes to him, but Luther’s understanding of the relationship between divine and human action reflects a more theologically persuasive understanding of the distinct modes by which God relates to human beings in creation and redemption than does Herdt’s nature-grace framework. The passivity of the human agent in Luther simply reflects the communicative situation in which Christian moral agency follows on hearing of the gospel, resulting in a model of moral formation in which the focus is on the good of the neighbour rather than one’s own ethical qualities.
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DOI 10.1177/0953946819884550
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