Adolf Schlatter on the relationship between justification and sanctification

the-theology-of-the-apostles‘The difference, even contrast, between the one-time, initial act of God that establishes our relationship with him and the changing, oscillating events in our history may move us deeply, so that we experience the encounter of the absolute, timeless, divine activity with our time-bound history as a profound mystery. In the case of Paul, on the other hand, it is not clear that this issue was significant for him. He never phrases his absolute pronouncements regarding our inclusion in the divine grace in abstract terms that circumvent the practicalities of what we experience and do. Likewise, he does not separate the evaluation of these processes from those foundational certainties. He rather links the revelation of divine grace with the wealth of all its consequences. He connects our individual experiences with the full depth of their source’. – Adolf Schlatter, The Theology of the Apostles: The Development of New Testament Theology (trans. Andreas J. Köstenberger; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998, 249

[BTW: this is my 1000th post!]


  1. Thanks Jas. I don’t know anything about Schlatter but think this observation is very valid and needs to be engaged with in any soteriological reflection (not to name any names). Do you recommend the book?


  2. Without reservation. I really can’t speak highly enough of Schlatter’s scholarship … and he’s much easier to read in English than in German (especially with those old nineteenth-century German fonts).


  3. I actually borrowed Schlatter’s book of devotions on Jesus from our church library, but gave it up. For some reason it really didn’t do much for me. But I like this quote though!

    Didn’t Barth once say that he was boring?


  4. Phil – try again.

    Re Barth: Karl Barth’s father, who was successor to Schlatter at Berne, strongly encouraged his son to study under Schlatter at Tübingen in 1907, which Barth did briefly before moving to Marburg in 1908 to be with Herrmann. I’ve never heard of Barth’s charge that Schlatter was ‘boring’. A quick glance through the index to Church Dogmatics suggests that Barth certainly did not think that Schlatter was so boring as to be ignored. So: I/1: 26, 301, 337 (27, 347, 388); I/2: 139, 176, 332, 608, 787, 789; II/2: 98, 544 f.; III/1: 77 f., 83; III/2: 44; III/3: 408 f., 417, 477; III/4: 307, 326, 355, 403 f.,, 431 f., 441 ff., 457, 635; IV/1: 178, 263; IV/2: 206; IV/3: 485, 631; IV/4: 148.


  5. I forget where I read it. I think it may have been in reference to his lectures … If I find the quote I’ll let you know.

    I would like to get to know Schlatter, not least because he is fairly popular amongst evangelicals here in Germany (I’m based in Bonn). Could you recommend a book to start off with?


  6. Phil.

    If you find that quote, please do let me know. I’d be very interested. Regarding reading Schlatter, here’s where I’d start if I was to start over again:

    1. The Theology of the Apostles: The Development of New Testament Theology. Translated by Andreas J. Köstenberger. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.
    2. Das christliche Dogma. Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1977. [1911].
    3. Die Theologie des Neuen Testaments, Volume 1: Das Wort Jesu. Calwer: Verlag der Vereinsbuchhandlung, 1909.
    4. Die Theologie des Neuen Testaments, Volume 2: Die Lehre der Apostel. Calwer: Verlag der Vereinsbuchhandlung, 1909.
    5. The History of the Christ: The Foundation for New Testament Theology. Translated by Andreas J. Köstenberger. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997. [Die Geschichte des Christus (Stuttgart: Calwer Vereinsbuchhandlung), 1923].
    6. Romans: The Righteousness of God. Translated by Siegfried S. Schatzmann. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995. [Gottes Gerechtigkeit: Ein Kommentar zum Römerbrief, 1935].

    And you’re definitely right about how hard-going his German is. Das christliche Dogma took me ages, but it was an incredibly-fruitful journey.


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