Of course the title should read “critiques“…
Happy a happy Halloween, too. We’ve got it. Make the best of it.
From Pastor Mark Anderson’s blog on Tuesday Oct. 31, 2012
On this day in 1517, the Augustinian monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The theses that Luther penned and posted that day set in motion events that reverberate into our own time. It is not an overstatement to say that Martin Luther has been among the most influencial historical figures of the last 500 years. There was a time when throughout the western world the Bible was the only book read more widely than Luther’s writings. Think about that.
Luther used the door of the Wittenberg church to post his theses along with an invitation to debate because it was a well-known community bulletin board. Wittenberg was also full of pilgrims that day who were gathering for the All Saints Day observances and a monk posting a notice would have been unremarkable. As he came and went it is likely that he went largely unnoticed. Unfortunately, unnoticed can also describe Luther in our time.
The year was 1988. I had just arrived at a Lutheran congregation here in California to begin my work as associate pastor for youth and parish education. On the first day of 7th grade confirmation class I distributed a brief, one page set of questions to the kids in order to get a sense of their knowledge of the Bible and their Lutheran faith. One of the questions was, ‘Who was Martin Luther?’ Well over half the class identified Martin Luther as a black man who was killed or had something to do with civil rights. A number of the kids answered that they did not know. Of that group of over twenty kids, three were able to identify Luther as the reformer.
At about the same time I was asked to address a Sunday morning adult class of over 50 people on the subject of Luther. To begin I described the theology of the cross and the theology of glory and asked the group for a show of hands regarding which they thought represented Martin Luther’s theology. Nearly every person went with the theology of glory. Wrong. No wonder the kids were clueless. I went home that morning in a blue funk. Not because I was surprised but precisely because after having already served three congregations in two other states, I had come to expect this.
Now, I am all for dusting off the 16th century once in a while and re-visiting the events of Luther’s life and time. It is important to do so. At the same time, I am more concerned that people today who inhabit the corridors of Lutheran churches, or any church for that matter, have some inkling as to why Luther matters. Because he does.
Thank you, Pastor Mark Anderson.
And he matters not because Martin Luther got everything right but because he points us to what is essential, he points us to the Cross, to Christ where our true salvation is found. Luther read his Bible and there discovered that we have no right or need to say anything or do anything for our salvation. As far as God is concerned, we have nothing to offer. Rather, as beggars in the bread line we can do no other than hold out our empty hands and receive the salvation that God gives on His terms, by grace alone, in the crucified and risen Jesus.
From a work by Lutheran theologian Oswald Bayer, titled ‘Martin Luther’s Theology’, 2003
Here’s a link to Chapter 4 of that work, ‘What Makes the Bible Become Holy Scripture’:
Thanks to CrossAlone Lutheran District for making this available on their site.
And thanks also to flickr and armas_de, for the photo.
Listen, and let me know ‘why’ (if you agree with me), or ‘why not’, if you don’t agree with me.
I have posted this one before (it is my all time favorite sermon – if that’s a sin, well…I am a sinner – what’s one more?)
It is a sermon on Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostle’s Creed, the Holy Spirit.
“Next to faith this is the highest art — to be content with the calling in which God has placed you. I have not learned it yet.”
— Martin Luther
Pastor Mark Anderson’s take on the above quote:
There is more to this quote than meets the eye. Luther viewed the ordinary vocations of life as authentic Christian discipleship. This was consistent with his very down-to-earth view of the Gospel and represented one of his most radical insights into the nature of the Christian life. Contrast this with the myriad of current discipleship, following Jesus programs where piety runs amok and which amount to nothing more than spiritual ladder climbing projects.
“Anyone who is but a little familiar with Luther knows that his different thoughts are not strung together like pearls in a necklace, united only by the bond of a common authority or perhaps by a chain of logical argument, but that they all lie close as the petals of a rose about a common centre, they shine out like the rays of the sun from one glowing source: the forgiveness of sins. We should be in no danger of misleading the would-be student of Luther, if we expressly gave him the rule: Never imagine you have rightly grasped a Lutheran idea until you have succeeded in reducing it to a simple corollary of the forgiveness of sins.”
from Our Calling by Swedish theologian Einar Billing
photo of Einar Billing from this site http://hem.bredband.net/wall/gen/
h/t to Pastor Mark.
Luther said many things in many different situations. He even said “unLutheran” things, such as good works are evidence of true faith. If you can find quotes in Luther’s Works that support works-righteousness, does that mean Luther had no coherent stance?
To the contrary, when looking at the total Luther, it’s evident that his theology (the cross alone; the bondage of the will, the freedom of the Christian, and the like) has a dynamic that is consistent from the young Luther to the older Luther in spite of what he may have said in a particular sermon on a particular occasion.
Thanks to CrossAlone Lutheran District.