Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Luther Quote

Note this fun quote from a sermon in 1534:

Those who hold that God is not willing to favor everybody with salvation become either desperate or secure, godless people who spend their lives as cattle and think: “After all, it is already decreed whether I am to be saved or not. Why, then, should I be inclined to take great pains in this matter?” No, this is not the way to think. You have the command to hear God’s Word and to believe that Christ is your Savior and has paid for your sin. See to it that you carry out this command. If you find yourself unbelieving or weak, pray God for His Holy Spirit, and do not doubt that Christ is your Savior and that you are to be saved through Him if you believe in Him, that is, comfort yourself with Him. Our dear Lord Jesus grant this to us all. Amen

Even before you get Calvin going on in full about limited atonement, even before you have the once-saved, always saved idea that so permeates America, you have Luther predicting the American complacency that we have today - the carnage left upon our Calvinist background. Neat stuff.


scott said...

I was just reading something about Luther (in Althaus's Theology of Martin Luther) in regard to this. I don't know if Althaus gets Luther totally right on this point, but he mentioned Luther preaching about the hidden God in order to destroy just this complacency (p 283ff).

"This teaching of God's hidden will and activity serves to "humble our pride and lead us to know God's grace." Only this can destroy man's final self-trust before God. When he completely despairs of himself, is made nothing, he becomes ripe for faith, that is, ready to throw himself without reservation into the arms of God. Preaching about the hidden God thus leads to despair and Luther testifies that this condition is terrible; at this same time, however, he asserts that it is salutary and "very close to grace." For God has promised to be gracious precisely to the despairing. . . .

"We should consider that God could also pass me by and should praise his free grace. We men seem to need this dark background, the stark opposite of election, to both become and remain completely humble in receiving grace: completely aware of the royal freedom and greatness of the mercy granted us. If grace were completely universal, we would interpret this universality by taking it for granted."

Which sermon did you get your quote from? It seems to go the opposite way of the Althaus section (which was taken mainly from The Bondage of the Will). In your quote Luther seemed to think that the hidden God could lead to complacency, and then commands people not to act thus. In the Althaus section he mentioned preaching the hidden God exactly in order to destroy this kind of complacency. Perhaps this is just another time where Luther talked different ways at different times.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

It would be his Septuagesima sermon from 1534 - taken out of "What Luther Says" - citation 1863 (I think, I'm at home now, this is off of memory from this morning).

My initial reaction -- I'm wondering if Althaus isn't conflating some of Luther on the Hidden God with simple Law. That, or Luther is speaking here to people who want to rely too much on the Hidden God - if your hope is in that which is hidden, then. . . well, the bad might be hidden from you as well.

I'm not sure. What happens in so many commentators is that they forget that Luther speaks so bluntly on Law and Gospel, both in their fullness. Those will always seem contradictory to people who do not understand Law and Gospel.

scott said...

Hmmm. It's a different 1534 Septuagesima sermon than in Volume 5 of the Baker collection. (Whenever I think of complaining about the number of sermons I have to write, looking at how often Luther preached different sermons, even on the same day, I am humbled.)

Yes, that is what I was thinking -- Luther speaking about (or to) different people, and addressing what he sees to be their need to hear at the time.