Luther on Sin as an Attribute of Man

“For I meant and now [expressly] say (what makes every hair of our professors stand on end) that sin, as long as we live, inheres essentially in good works, just as the ability to laugh inheres in man. (I speak after the fashion of Aristotle, not of the sophists, for they still don’t know what is an essential or proper attribute according to Aristotle.) [In contrast], food, sleep, and death are attributed to man by accidental predication. Consequently, just as it does not follow that because a man is always capable of laughing, therefore he always laughs, so it does not follow that because a man lives, therefore he is always awake, eating, or dying. However, this does follow: a man lives, therefore he is capable of laughter, of eating, of sleeping, of dying, etc. In the same way, this follows: a man does good and therefore sins, because a man doing good is a subject which has sin as its attribute, just as was postulated on the basis of what Solomon says” (“Against Latomus,” LW 32, 186-87).

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