Skip to comments.What drove Luther's Hammer
Posted on 10/31/2012 7:54:19 AM PDT by Gamecock
Luther sensed deeply the stare of Christ the Judge standing over him, demanding of him an impossible level of inner purity.
Luther was the second son in a family of eight children. His father and mother were sturdy German Bauern (peasants): coarse, credulous, and devout. Often in the beliefs of these untutored folk, elements of old German paganism blended with the Christian story: woods, winds, and water were peopled by elves, gnomes, fairies, mermen and mermaids, sprites and witches; and witchcraft was taken for granted throughout Europe. Young Luther had ample opportunity to witness the mischief and grief of evil spirits, soon learning the marvelous power of the church to control the demons. As a result, Luther carried over many typical German peasant superstitions of his day.
Scholars tell us that there was nothing remarkable about Luther's home life. His parents were God-fearing but not unusually devout, and the children were subjected to a stern upbringing. Typical of the age, the switch and beatings were the most common way to raise a family, and young Martin received his share. But as Luther began to show academic promise, he became highly esteemed at home.
In his classic book, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Abingdon Press, 1987), Yale University historian Dr. Roland Bainton summarizes these early years: "We know this much. Luther imbibed a religion in which one had to strive for future salvation, just as one had to work for material survival." Luther's Education
School education reinforced the training of the home. Children were instructed in sacred song, singing Psalms and hymns, and they attended Mass and Vespers. Bainton writes that "the entire training of home, school, and university was designed to instill fear of God and reverence for the church."
Schools of that day were not tender, but neither were they brutal. Teaching was by drill and punctuated by the rod. Luther remembered being soundly beaten for failing to conjugate a Latin verb he had not yet learned! But he knew Latin was useful: it was the language of the church, of law, of diplomacy, of international relations, of scholarship, even of travel. Luther was therefore devoted to his studies and became highly proficient in Latin and German grammar.
By age seventeen, Luther was a student at the University of Erfurt. As the university was yet untouched by the Renaissance, Luther remarked that the most popular courses were those offered in the inns and taverns (many students, including Luther, referred to the university as "a bawdy house and a beer house"). Luther's first year was nothing special. In 1505, however, he was one of seventeen students (out of an original three hundred) who graduated as a "master" of arts. During that time, he built a reputation among his fellow students as one of the finest disputants, and they dubbed him "the philosopher."
In many ways, Luther as a young man was an ordinary, although gifted, student: sociable, musical, popular, pious. He was rollicking, fond of music, proficient on the lute, and enamored of the German landscape. Luther's Anfectungen
In one respect, however, Luther stood apart from his fellows: his inner bouts with the Anfectungen that plagued him throughout his life. The word has no English equivalent, but it is stronger than "temptation" or "trial." Closer would be "assault" or "attack"terrifying ordeals, bouts of depression, despair, perhaps what people of earlier centuries called "melancholia."
Luther often wondered if God held good intentions toward him or nothis anxieties stemming from late medieval Roman Church theology. Luther feared God and everlasting condemnation; he sensed deeply the stare of Christ the Judge standing over him, demanding of him an impossible level of inner purity. At times, he could not help fearing that these feelings were evidence that he was not one of God's elect, but rather among those destined to be damned.
After two months of attending lectures in law, Luther went home for a visit. We don't know why, but he later wrote that it was because of fear over the condition of his soul. During his return to university, a sudden storm arose, lightning flashed, and the air pressure of a bolt suddenly knocked him to the ground. In terror, he cried out, "St. Anne, save me! I will become a monk!" The thought of sudden, unexpected death terrified every medieval Christian, because it would not allow a last confession to a priest.
It was no easy vow to keep, and Luther carefully considered his obligation to it. Though his father was angry and several of his teachers thought his vow was not binding, Luther could not avoid keeping his promise. He threw a farewell party for his friends and gave away his musical instruments and Roman law books. Then, in the fall of 1505, with heaviness of heart, he arrived at the Augustinian Order's monastery in Erfurtthe most rigorous of the local monastic groups.
Like everyone else in the Middle Ages, Luther knew what to do about his plight. The wise and secure course was to "take the cowl." But why did Luther drop out of law school and join a monastery? For exactly the same reason thousands of others didto save his soul! Luther the Monk
Medieval monasticism reflected the deepest insight of the Roman Church concerning the relation of the holy God to man the sinner. In the last analysis, a holy, righteous, and just God could have fellowship with and could accept only a holy, just, and good man. But how could such a God of perfection accept a sinful man as his own? The real problem was to make a man sufficiently holy, so that his acceptance by God, if not certain, was at least highly probable. As Bainton explains, "[Luther] set himself to the pursuit of holiness. Monasticism constituted such a quest; Luther looked upon the cloister as the higher righteousness."
His teachers, following the Bible, taught that God demanded absolute righteousness (as in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye perfect"). People needed to love God absolutely and their neighbors as themselves; and they should have the unshakable faith of Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his sonhence the demand that the monk fulfill all the laws and commands of God, including poverty, chastity, and obedience.
The life of a monk was terribly hard, but people of Luther's day "knew" that it was pleasing to God. Its benefits were "certain." Were the monastics aware of the great gulf between God and man? Absolutely! They also knew that the fluctuation between despair and hope, between unbearable demand and partial fulfillment, would produce doubts and spiritual torment in many of the good brothersbut this served to keep them from complacency and self-righteousness. Once their sinfulness was fully exposed, there were ample ways to reassure the weak in times of trouble. At the center of this assurance was the sacrament of penance. The sinner confessed to a priest, was forgiven (absolved), and then performed penitential acts that completed the process. People were to repent in a fully contrite mannernot for the purpose of saving themselves. But Luther knew that in the midst of this most crucial act, he was at his most selfish. He confessed his sins and performed his penance out of the intensely human instinct to save his own skin. Yet because of the human tendency to sin, one could hardly confess enough. This critical issue remained vivid in Luther's mind. He later commented, "If one were to confess his sins in a timely manner, he would have to carry a confessor in his pocket!"
When Luther tried to avail himself of this comfort, it failed to produce the desired results: "Yet my conscience would never give me assurance, but I was always doubting and said 'You did not perform that correctly. You were not contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.'" How then could he stand before God?
Monasticism provided a variety of ways in which man could wash away his sin and improve his spiritual estate. The monk could fast, pray, meditate, perform Mass, beat his body, and engage in other physical/spiritual exercises. Through this, the body and pride would be defeated.
In addition to an acute sense of the holiness of God, Luther had a brutally honest picture of himself as a creature. He knew all too well that it is easy for man to see himself "in the best possible light." Man is usually willing to forgive himself and then rest assured that God has also forgiven him. "So long as one does the best that is in him," man is sure it is enough. But Luther was too sensitive to be satisfied with such "answers." What Luther saw was a self-centered sinful man holding sway under the pretense of monastic holiness. So serious were the mounting struggles that Luther began to think he may be one of those predestined for damnation.
A critical moment came when Luther's superiors ordered him to take his doctorate and become a professor of Bible at Wittenberg University. Although he initially resisted going"It will be the death of me!"he finally relented. As one historian famously notes, this command that Luther pursue theological study "was one of the most brilliant or stupid decisions in the history of Latin Christianity."
Although Luther's fears and anxieties drove him into the cloister, they only intensified during his time as a monk. But the command to study academic theology meant he could now also investigate his struggles intellectually. He soon acquired his mature self-identity as a professor and a doctor of Sacred Scripture. The "Turn"
Luther's early doctrine of justification was a form of self-torture. The problem was how to love God unselfishly, to reach a state of pure love of God for God's own sakewhich he learned from St. Augustine and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Still, Luther knew that we children of Adam are "curved in on ourselves" and that we seek only ourselves. For Luther, the remedy for the evil self-love was self-hatred. This was the essential road to salvation: agree with God's verdict and the rightness of his wrath against us, even be willing to be damned. (Justification is the opposite: we agree with God's wrath against us, feeling that in our hearts; the just man always accuses himself.)
This thinking, however, led Luther to a deeper fear of God rather than greater love for him, thus setting up a vicious cycle of fear, resentment, and despair, which led to anger and a hatred of God. What was missing was the gospel as God's kind Word of promise.
Luther felt compelled to turn to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, particularly to wrestle with the phrase "the righteousness of God": "The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Rom. 1:1617 and Hab. 2:4). Luther's first understanding of the verse was that the gospel merely confirmed the dreaded juridical interpretation of "God's righteousness" as demanda revelation of the punitive righteousness of God, God's means of further tormenting men who are already fearfully burdened with original sin and the Ten Commandments. Still, he would not let go of the passage. He struggled and raged against the demands of a God who kept demanding that which man cannot give and then damns him for not giving it!
Then the breakthrough came. God by the Holy Spirit finally cracked open the passage to Luther's understanding. In my paraphrase: "The one who gives up on his or her supposed, but really icky 'righteousness,' who shifts instead to trusting only in the Messiah's righteousness freely given or imputed to him, that sinner will live." Gratuitously (freely) that sinner is forgiven all of his sin, reconciled to God, adopted into the family of God as his child and heir, and given eternal life. "Being turned away from" obsession with our "icky" righteousness to Jesus Christ's (genuine but "alien") righteousness as the only hope we have is, what Paul calls, "faith." (Think of the old King James translation of the verse in Jeremiah: "Turn Thou me and I shall be turned.") So we get no credit for saving faith whatsoever. Like Peter's confession as to who Jesus was, it is a gift to us from heaven: "Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven." As a result, the sinner is made alive to God and begins to walk in his way. The Gospel Breakthrough
In grasping the meaning of "justification," Luther saw that the heart of the gospel has to do not with what God demands but with what he gives to man in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here Luther leaned heavily on St. Paul. The "righteousness of God" that saves sinners is not an active one (something man does), but is rather entirely passive. A man is not righteous because of what he achieves, but because of what Jesus Christ did for him in his death and resurrection. Man simply trusts God at his Word and hopes in the inscripturated promise of God. He trusts that God in Christ has completely accepted him while he was still a sinner, has forgiven his sin, instantly judged the sinner as completely acquitted, and given him eternal lifeand all this based solely on what Christ has done outside of him and for him, not "in him."
For the first time in his life, Luther discovered what "peace" meant. It was not some self-induced tranquility of mind or even a profound resting secure in an ancient and hallowed tradition, but rather a childlike trust in God's own promises in Scripture, in texts that spoke of God's saving action in Jesus Christ. It rested not on personal vision or ecstasy, a miracle, or on the adjustment of Luther's personality to the tensions he experienced. Finally, the gospel is not about man at all (except in the sense of the God-man, Jesus Christ); it is not about merit or effort, but about Jesus' struggle with wrath and judgment, and with Jesus' victory over sin, death, and the devil. This is what drove Luther's hammer.
He wallowed in sins - specifically adultery - convinced that the mere fact of his baptism would save him from the consequences of his sins regardless of whether he repented or not.
That's what Luther's 'faith' boiled down to - an insistence that Christ would save him whatever he did.
This is presumption of God's mercy, and is one of the two sins against hope (the other being despair). It is a grave sin.
We must not repeat Luther's error and presume that we are saved. Rather we must hope for salvation.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
-- 1 John 5:13, English Standard Version
These things I write to you, that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.
-- 1 John 5:13, Douay-Rheims Bible
and nowhere in that scripture quote or in the context does it note that you may continue wallow in your continued sinfulness as long as ‘you believe in the name of the son of God’, and still be saved.
As Christ says, Go and SIN NO MORE.
That is the lie from Satan that they believe.
Are you accusing Luther of adultery, my dear Catholic friend? He may have gone a bit too far as the pendulum swings-—but not that far.
Are you accusing Luther of adultery, my dear Catholic friend? He may have gone a bit too far as the pendulum swings-—but not that far.
Sin doesn't come in degrees. Sin is sin. There is no such thing as "too far" or "that far" when it comes to sin.
A lie is the same as murder is the same as adultery.
Christians, whether they are Calvinists or not, are the "elect." God choose us and will see us through. It is not through our own efforts, but the Holy Spirit working in us. To claim otherwise is to deny God's revealed word.
2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
John 6:39-40 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
and once again, none of those scriptures say that you can continue sinning, because despite folks trying to manipulate the word of God, nowhere do any of these countermand Christ’s own assertion to GO AND SIN NO MORE...he doesnt follow that up with, “but if you do, dont worry, since you ‘believed on my name’ you are good to go regardless”
Luther was awesome. Great quotes:
“Perhaps you want me to die of unrelieved boredom while you keep on talking.”
“You are like mouse-droppings in the pepper.”
“You are a toad eater and a fawner.”
and this gem...
“You should not write a book before you have heard an old sow fart; and then you should open your jaws with awe, saying, ‘Thank you, lovely nightingale, that is just the text for me!’”
Luther seemed obsessed with farts.
“Did you not know that a Jew is so beloved of God that every time one farts, a thousand Angels dance?” Martin Luther
It really seemed to grate upon his nerves (he and several other historic Germans of note) that THEY were God’s chosen people and not Germans; and that the Bible is full of stories about THEM and not Germans.
Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
None said you may continue sinning. But Scripture teaches that Christ paid for our sin, and the Holy Spirit will grow us so that we sin less and less.
If you are counting on your own righteousness, then there is no need for Christ.
Calvin was the first to develop a full doctrine of perseverance. He affirmed the believers sure persuasion of present and future salvation; unconditional election, and the final perseverance of the saints, which follows logically from the the inflexible constancy of (unconditional)election. Calvinists believe that God preserves to final salvation each of the elect whom He calls and regenerates.
The doctrine of perseverance stands opposed to the idea of apostasy, or the doctrine that it is possible for believers to fall from grace, either temporarily, so as to alternate from a state of grace to a state of lostness and back to a state of grace again, or finally, so as to have been once saved and yet finally be damned. Perseverance points to the passages underscoring the believers sure persuasion that God takes the initiative in perfecting, as well as originating, mans salvation: He who has begun a good work in the believer performs it to the end(Phil. 1:6); God keeps His own (John 10:28, And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand); nothing can separate the believer from the love of God;(Rom.8:38-39); and the Holy Spirit seals the believer to the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30.)
In other words, it stands opposed to actual Scripture, and to lessons that Christ, Himself, taught.
Gee--I wonder which one I'll follow. /s