Quotable: Luther, heuristic passion yields careful analysis

“A man who does not treat this question seriously and has no interest in the issue, whose mind is not on it and who finds it a boring and a chilling and a distasteful business, cannot help uttering absurdities and follies and contradictions all along the line; he argues his case like a man drunk or asleep, blurting out between snores ‘Yes!’ ‘No!’ as different voices sound upon his ears! This is why rhetoricians require passion in one who pleads a case. Much more does theology require passion, to make a man vigorous, and keen, and earnest, and prudent, and energetic!”

Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, 146.

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Introduction to Bondage of the Will

Have to love Luther… LOL

THAT I have been so long answering your DIATRIBE on FREE-WILL, venerable Erasmus, has happened contrary to the expectation of all, and contrary to my own custom also. For hitherto, I have not only appeared to embrace willingly opportunities of this kind for writing, but even to seek them of my own accord. Some one may, perhaps, wonder at this new and unusual thing, this forbearance or fear, in Luther, who could not be roused up by so many boasting taunts, and letters of adversaries, congratulating Erasmus on his victory and singing to him the song of Triumph—What that Maccabee, that obstinate assertor, then, has at last found an Antagonist a match for him, against whom he dares not open his mouth!

But so far from accusing them, I myself openly concede that to you, which I never did to any one before:—that you not only by far surpass me in the powers of eloquence, and in genius, (which we all concede to you as your desert, and the more so, as I am but a barbarian and do all things barbarously,) but that you have damped my spirit and impetus, and rendered me languid before the battle; and that by two means. First, by art: because, that is, you conduct this discussion with a most specious and uniform modesty; by which you have met and prevented me from being incensed against you. And next, because, on so great a subject, you say nothing but what has been said before: therefore, you say less about, and attribute more unto “Free-will,” than the Sophists have hitherto said and attributed: (of which I shall speak more fully hereafter.) So that it seems even superfluous to reply to these your arguments, which have been indeed often refuted by me; but trodden down, and trampled under foot, by the incontrovertible Book of Philip Melancthon “Concerning Theological Questions:” a book, in my judgment, worthy not only of being immortalized, but of being included in the ecclesiastical canon: in comparison of which, your Book is, in my estimation, so mean and vile, that I greatly feel for you for having defiled your most beautiful and ingenious language with such vile trash; and I feel an indignation against the matter also, that such unworthy stuff should be borne about in ornaments of eloquence so rare; which is as if rubbish, or dung, should he carried in vessels of gold and silver. And this you yourself seem to have felt, who were so unwilling to undertake this work of writing; because your conscience told you, that you would of necessity have to try the point with all the powers of eloquence; and that, after all, you would not be able so to blind me by your colouring, but that I should, having torn off the deceptions of language, discover the real dregs beneath. For, although I am rude in speech, yet, by the grace of God, I am not rude in understanding. And, with Paul, I dare arrogate tomyself understanding and with confidence derogate it from you; although I willingly, and deservedly, arrogate eloquence and genius to you, and derogate it from myself.

Sermon of the Day

Why should we be unwilling to do for others what has been done for us by God, of whose blessings we are far less worthy than anyone can be of our help?

10. Now we see how utterly we fail to walk in faith when we presume to arrive at goodness and happiness by any other good works than those done to our neighbor. So numerous are the new works and doctrines daily devised, everything like a correct conception of a truly good life is wholly destroyed. But the fact is, all Christian doctrines and works, all Christian living, is briefly, clearly and completely comprehended in these two principles, faith and love. They place man as a medium between God and his neighbor, to receive from above and distribute below. Thus the Christian becomes a vessel, or rather a channel, through which the fountain of divine blessings continuously flows to other individuals.

15. Now, if you steadfastly believe, if you rejoice in God your Lord, if you are alive and his grace satisfies, if your wants are all supplied, how will you employ yourself in this earthly life? Inactive you cannot be. Such a disposition of love toward God cannot rest. Your zeal will be warm to do everything you know will be to the praise and glory of a kind and gracious God. At this point there is no longer distinction of works. Here all commands terminate. There is neither restraint–nor compulsion, but a joyful willingness and delight in doing good, whether the intended achievement be insignificant or difficult, small or great, requiring short service or long.

47. True, the self-righteous perform works similar to those of the regenerated; indeed, their works are frequently the more brilliant. They pray, fast, contribute money, erect institutions, make pilgrimages and conduct themselves with great ostentation. But Christ calls their works “sheep’s clothing” (Mt 7, 15) wherein move ravening wolves. None of the self-righteous are really humble, mild, moderate and good in their hearts. This fact is revealed when one crosses them and rejects their works. Then they bring forth their natural and identifying fruits: temerity, impatience, arbitrariness, obstinacy, slander and many other evil propensities.

58. Our faith and all we may have received from God is insufficient to salvation, wholly inadequate, unless faith rests beneath the wings of Christ and firmly trusts that not we but he can render, and has rendered, full satisfaction to the justice of God for us; and that grace and salvation

Titus 3:4-8 by Martin Luther

Luther on Being a Theologian

“Moreover, you will find how flat and idle the books of the fathers will seem to you, and you will not only look down upon the books of the adversaries but will also increasingly please yourself less by your own writing and teaching. After you have come to this point, confidently hope that you have begun to become a real theologian who may teach not only the young, imperfect Christians but also the progressing and mature ones;

“But if you feel proud and imagine that you have certainly mastered your field and are tickled at your own little book, your teaching and writing as though you had done very splendidly and preached excellently; if, moreover, you are greatly pleased that people praise you before others and you perhaps also want to be praised–otherwise you would grieve and quit, my friend–if you are of this sort, then take hold of your own ears, and if you grab aright, you will find a beautiful pair of great, long, hairy donkey’s ears.”

Martin Luther

Happy Reformation Day!


“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Martin Luther

I’m thankful to God for the courage of Martin Luther to fight established dogmas with a reasonable and common sense interpretation of Scriptures. The world could use more theologians like Luther who can move beyond prolegomena to teach the meaning of scripture and its glorious implications for Christ’s church. Post Tenebras Lux!

Ideology and Luther

Before I watched the movie Luther last night (my wife is out of town, so I could get by with watching a “boring” movie about history), I watched the actor interviews by Joseph Fiennes who plays Martin Luther. I don’t know what I was expecting to hear, but this is what I heard:

On the Central Idea of the Film:

I think it’s very much about the minority, and the suppressed. And particularly in this story it’s about the control of the Catholic church at the masses during that time through language and interpretation. I think if anything is relevant it shows that you can’t keep man down. You can’t control him and that sooner or later he will gain knowledge and through the knowledge power to be liberated, freedom of conscience.”

On Playing Martin Luther

As an actor I’m sure that most actors look at their characters and try to identify, or at least sympathize 100% in order to understand and be believable. So that would be my approach. I live in a very different time than Martin but I can still try to draw parallels and I think that that is really the challenge of this project is to bring it into a modern context. I tried to play Martin with doubt as much as knowing what’s right. And I think that is a very human condition even with those who are driven 100%, pursued with doubt. Here’s a man who’s a genius, invented a lot of the German language, and brought Rome down, and yet I like the idea that he is still human pursued by doubt. So if I was to draw out any trait it would probably be doubt.”

Reminds me of Bauder’s comment that “Aragorn is degraded from a finite but messianic savior‐figure into a tortured postmodern, beset by angst and ambiguity.” Fortunately, I got the sense that the script was strong enough that Fiennes couldn’t really turn Martin Luther into a full blown postmodern.