Back on 07-03-14, I published a post (link) that brought into question a thread at the Beggars All blog (link) which adopted the assertion that the Council of Trent "reaffirmed" semi-Pelaganism that was "condemned at Orange in 529 AD".
There were also those infamous threads at BA which attempted to defend the charge that Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI "is pretty much a full-blown Pantheist" (see this post for links to those threads). But, it seems that misrepresentation at BA is not limited to the Catholic Church...
In a thread published on 03/31/15 at Beggars All (link), James Swan relates to his readers, "what the Jehovah's Witnesses have to say about Luther".
He provides selections from a The Watchtower, 09-15-03, article, with the title, "Martin Luther—The Man and His Legacy" (available online here).
The first two quotes pertain directly to Martin Luther, but the third quote, moves beyond the historical Luther into the realm of theology, specifically, what James believes JWs believe/teach concerning justification. He prefaces the third quote he provided from the JW article with:
What I looked for as I read the article was how it gave testimony to the distinctives of the Watchtower. For instance, the Watchtower article mentions justification.
The quote itself is immediately followed by the following:
Someone reading these statements quickly might find them within the realm of orthodoxy. Certainly it's true that Luther thought himself not worthy of God's favor. Certainly it's true that Luther had his evangelical breakthrough by "Bible study, prayer, and meditation." It is true that "Luther recognized that God’s favor cannot be earned." It is true that salvation is "by faith and not by works, or penance." What's missing from these statements is Luther's emphasis on the righteousness of Christ imputed to sinners (alien righteousness), and the word "alone," as in "faith alone." The majority of the article focuses on what Luther did: his works. Without stating it explicitly, the Watchtower has presented its soteriology: having faith in God and doing works.
The last portion, "having faith in God and doing works", is a hyperlink that leads one to an online article, published on John Ankerberg's apologetic website (LINK).
I have some difficulties with James assessment(s). First, it is an error to extrapolate that if, "Luther's emphasis on the righteousness of Christ imputed to sinners (alien righteousness), and the word 'alone,' as in 'faith alone'", are "missing" in an article on Luther, then one should conclude the soteriology of the author writing the article denies those concepts. If one adopts such methodology, consistency would lead one to also conclude that the Bible denies those concepts, for one will not find therein an explicit statement of, "the righteousness of Christ imputed to sinners (alien righteousness)", nor will one find the phrase "faith alone" used in the sense that one is "justified by faith alone"; in fact, "faith alone" is found only once in the entire Bible, and it is used in a negative sense: one is NOT justified by "faith alone" (James 2:24).
Second, one should not rely on a professional apologist to discern what someone else (and/or group) believes. One should always let that person, or group, speak for themselves. It is a rare instance to find a professional apologist giving a totally accurate picture of a person, or group, he disagrees with. The article linked to by James is unreliable, for it omits a good deal of germane evidence that contradicts the two authors (Ankerberg and Weldon) conclusion: Jehovah's Witnesses teach a "works salvation". The following explicit JW texts are not to be found in their article:
Is anything more than faith needed in order to gain salvation?
Eph. 2:8, 9, RS: By grace ["undeserved kindness," NW] is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.” (The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s undeserved kindness. There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the sacrifice of his Son.)
Heb. 5:9, RS: “He [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Italics added.) (Does this conflict with the statement that Christians are “saved through faith”? Not at all. Obedience simply demonstrates that their faith is genuine.)
James 2:14, 26, RS: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” (A person does not earn salvation by his works. But anyone who has genuine faith will have works to go with it—works of obedience to the commands of God and Christ, works that demonstrate his faith and love. Without such works, his faith is dead.)
Acts 16:30, 31 RS: “‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” (If that man and his household truly believed, would they not act in harmony with their belief? Certainly.) [Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, 1989, p. 359.]
These sheeplike ones are not justified or declared righteous on the basis of their own works any more than the 144,000 heirs of Christ are. The prime thing that counted was the thing that was evidenced by their trying to do what they could in behalf of Christ just as the situation afforded, namely, their faith in him as the Messiah or Christ of God. They recognized that they had no righeousness wholly pleasing to God in themselves. In harmony with this they availed themselves of the propitiatory blood of the sacrificial Lamb of god, Jesus Christ. (John 1:29, 36) To gain a righteous apperance before Jehovah God, they did a washing, as it were, of their symbolic robes. [God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached, 1973.]
Finishing his earthly course free from flaw in any sense of the word, Jesus was acknowledged by God as justified. He was thus the only man, who through test, stood firmly and positively just, or righeous before God on his own merit. By this "one act of justification [form of di•kai'o•ma],"that is, by Jesus' proving himself perfectly righteous his entire flawless course, including his sacrifice, he provided the basis for declaring righteous those persons having faith in Christ.—Rom. 5:17-19; 3:25, 26; 4:25. [Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, p. 437.]
[Note: emphasis in the above selections are in the original.]
The above quotes present the offical view of Jehovah's Witnesses concerning justification by faith [alone]. No amount of sophistry will change this teaching into a "works salvation" soteriology, as Ankerberg and Weldon have attempted to accomplish in their misleading article.
As for the Jehovah's Witnesses view of Martin Luther, the fullest treatment that I am aware of is in the book, Mankind's Search for God (1990). Chapter 13, "The Reformation—The Search Took a New Turn", is 29 pages long, with pages 314-319 being devoted to Luther. The treatment is certainly a brief one, but, I find nothing in it that is historically inaccurate.
Shall end this post here, sincerely hoping that I have brought some clarity and accuracy to the Jehovah's Witnesses view on justification.
Grace and peace,