Why I’m a Fan of Luther

December 15, 2008 § 8 Comments

bainton-luther1

“Luther’s new insights contained already the marrow of his mature theology. The salient ideas were present in the lectures on Psalms and Romans from 1513 to 1516. What came after was but commentary and sharpening to obviate misconstruction. The center about which all the petals clustered was the affirmation of forgiveness sins through the utterly unmerited grace of God made possible by the cross of Christ, which reconciled wrath and mercy, routed the hosts of hell, triumphed over sin and death, and by the resurrection manifested that power which enables man to die to sin and rise to newness of life. This was of course the theology of Paul, heightened, intensified, and clarified. Beyond these cardinal tenets Luther was never to go” (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, 68).

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§ 8 Responses to Why I’m a Fan of Luther

  • -C says:

    But of course, thist is not a concept that was somehow new to the church with Luther.

  • jpschock says:

    True, but there’s something about Luther the way he preaches the message of God’s free forgiveness in Christ that I don’t always hear as clearly in other Christian traditions. Perhaps Luther’s gift to Christianity (and the world) was, as Bainton says, the ability to clarify the apostle Paul’s theology on grace.

  • -C says:

    If you don’t hear it, maybe you aren’t listening?
    I hear it just as plainly now as I did during the 46 years I was a Lutheran – except I hear it in more of a truthful and responsible context now.
    Luther’s “clarity” opened wide the door to (what Bonhoeffer aptly calls) “cheap grace.”

  • jpschock says:

    Quite possibly the problem is on *my* end, no doubt.

    Luther’s ‘clarity’ may have lead to “cheap grace” but that was never his intent—which I think is critical to remember. I think we need to always understand a position in it’s best light or more specifically, it’s intent. In this, Luther surely never meant “cheap grace” in that we can live like hell without any consequences. Rather, Luther unearthed a gospel that had surely been distorted and buried and needed recovery. I give Luther the benefit of the doubt that he was indeed preaching the apostolic gospel, or as Bainton so nicely summarizes, “The center about which all the petals clustered was the affirmation of forgiveness sins through the utterly unmerited grace of God made possible by the cross of Christ, which reconciled wrath and mercy, routed the hosts of hell, triumphed over sin and death, and by the resurrection manifested that power which enables man to die to sin and rise to newness of life.”

    To fault Luther for ‘cheap grace’ is to misunderstand his message and is really no different than faulting Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy for paving the way to legalism and a works-based salvation.

  • -C says:

    Sola Scriptura – Luther’s flawed and very intentional concept – made all Christian responsibility (and responsibility comes with any true covenental relationship) simply optional (at best) – or nullified the responsibility altogether (at worst.)

  • jpschock says:

    I’m not so sure. Again, you paint a negative view of Luther (and Lutheranism?) in light of the abuses, which to me doesn’t seem fair. Sure, it might be accurate (the abuses), but it doesn’t accurately capture the true spirit of Luther’s intent: which was to recover and understand the gospel as taught by the Apostle Paul. And in this light, I think the church can learn from Luther’s explication of the gospel. This doesn’t mean that we all need to become “Lutherans” only that the true Lutheran confessions can fit under the umbrella of the ancient faith. So rather than focus on the negative (abuses) of Luther, why not embrace the truth that he helped recover?

  • -C says:

    We’ve talked about this before. Luther did some good things – important things for the church (without his influence, perhaps you and I might be worshipping in Russian and communing once a year!).

    But Luther himself could not turn his back on the abuses of the Roman Catholic church – regardless of the truths therein. (I’m taking my lead from him, except that he should have opted for return instead of reform.)

    Luther threw the baby out with the bath.

  • -C says:

    …and called the baby adiophora.

    Just my 4 cents.

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