Pope Francis Lays Down the Law
The Pope recently said this: “A commandment is valid if it comes from Jesus: I do this because the Lord wants me to do this. But if I am a Christian without Christ, I do this and I don’t know why I have to do it”. This quote is further illuminated by another quote from him about how some people “make so many commandments the center of their religiosity”. Together these form an argument against Luther, who saw commandments as external and arbitrary.
In the nominalist view of Luther and others, God issues forth commandments that are external to us. In the Catholic view, commandments are those rules by which we can become more human, more authentically ourselves. Christ is the center of those commands because in Christ we find communion with both God and neighbor, and communion is the fullest understanding of what it means to be human. The more we further authentic communion, the more we follow Christ.
This contrasts with the nominalists, who say there is no “ideal humanity” to configure ourselves to so that we may become more authentically ourselves. In this view, God’s law is laid down arbitrarily so that following the law can become and end into itself. Since the law is arbitrary, following it doesn’t necessarily lead to communion. Therefore following the law can be seen as an obstacle to following Jesus.