What Is The Article Of The Standing or Falling Of The Church?

articulus iustificationis dicitur articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae (the article of justification is said to be the article of the standing or falling of the church)”

—J. H. Alsted (1588–1638), Theologia scholastica didactica (Hanover, 1618), 711.

For the sense and origins of this celebrated phrase, see F. Loofs, “Der articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae.” It is necessary to challenge Loofs upon several points, particularly his suggestion that the phrase is first used in the eighteenth century by the Lutheran theologian Valentin Loscher in his famous anti-Pietist diatribe … and is restricted to the Lutheran constituency within Protestantism. This is clearly incorrect. The Reformed theologian Johann Heinrich Alsted uses the phrase a century earlier, opening his discussion of the justification of humanity coram Deo as follows: “articulus iustificationis dicitur articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae” (Theologia scholastica didacta (Hanover, 1618), 711). Precursors of the phrase may, of course, be found in the writings of Luther himself e.g., WA 40/3.352.3: “quia isto articulo stante stat Ecclesia, ruente ruit Ecclesia.”

Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 1.7


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  1. Hello Dr. Clark,

    The quote you provided is actually from the third edition, p. vii. (It is also in the 1st and 2nd editions with some slight variations.)

    Grace and peace,


  2. I actually wasn’t able to verify Luther’s use as of yet. Bernard Lohse claims, quoting Loofs, that Luthern Orrthodox theologian Valentin Ernst Löscher was the first one to use it.

  3. Interestingly, Benjamin Palmer Morgan cites Luther as its author, thought the context doesn’t suggest it was exclusively his contrivance, in his Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell.

    • Turretin also assigned it to Luther too but that’s incorrect. He also says that Thomas said “theology teaches God, is taught by God, and leads to God.” He didn’t or at least he didn’t in the place Turretin cited in the Summa. These things get passed along orally and memorized as “facts.”

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