Happy Reformation Day

Originally published on Oct. 30, 2009

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

On Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther (reportedly) nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany thus sparking the Protestant Reformation.
The immediate problem Luther was dealing with was the selling of indulgences to pardon sins and free souls from purgatory. This was an offense to the real good news that we are saved by grace through faith!

A few years after posting the 95 Theses Luther would write Concerning Christian Liberty describing the inner and outer man, and the relationship between faith and works. In this work he gives the following illustration:

To make what we have said more easily understood, let us set it forth under a figure. The works of a Christian man, who is justified and saved by his faith out of the pure and unbought mercy of God, ought to be regarded in the same light as would have been those of Adam and Eve in paradise and of all their posterity if they had not sinned. Of them it is said, “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Gen. ii. 15). Now Adam had been created by God just and righteous, so that he could not have needed to be justified and made righteous by keeping the garden and working in it; but, that he might not be unemployed, God gave him the business of keeping and cultivating paradise. These would have indeed been works of perfect freedom, being done for no object but that of pleasing God, and not in order to obtain justification, which he already had to the full, and which would have been innate in us all.

So it is with the works of a believer. Being by his faith replaced afresh in paradise and created anew, he does not need works for his justification, but that he may not be idle, but may exercise his own body and preserve it. His works are to be done freely, with the sole object of pleasing God. Only we are not yet fully created anew in perfect faith and love; these require to be increased, not, however, through works, but through themselves.

Let’s remember the courage of Martin Luther and other reformers who took a strong stand for Jesus making sure that the truth of the Gospel was clearly taught at a time when it was dangerous to do so.

Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger is not just a good book and later movie but got its start in the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) way back in 1919. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., writing the unanimous opinion for the SCOTUS in the case Schenck v. United States, gave us the clear and present danger test. It states in essence that there are times when the 1st Amendment right to free speech may be restricted. The test was actually refined through additional cases as a means to protect speech unless the immediate threat of illegal activity was present.

The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.  (emphasis added)

Martin Luther (Lucas Cranach the Elder 1526)

In Luther’s introduction to his commentary on Galatians, he articulates his own test for clear and present danger when it comes to matters of theology. Continue reading

Happy Reformation Day [Insane Guilt]

If chapter four of the Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul was about how God’s holiness unsettles people, then this chapter explored that theme through the lens of Martin Luther’s life. I enjoyed Sproul’s retelling of key moments in the life of Martin Luther exploring the events and personality that shaped the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation. If you are looking for a good intro to Luther this chapter is excellent. I am a church history buff and have added a new book – Here I Stand – to my ever growing Wish List too.

The thing that struck me (maybe because I can relate to some degree) was Luther’s obsession with his guilt resulting in his compulsions to go to confessions daily often for hours to be cleansed. He seemed to struggle mightily with trying to figure out how to be right before a Holy God. What brought him to a point where he could barely function…

Luther examined the Great Commandment, ” `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself”‘ (Luke 10:27). Then he asked himself, “What is the Great Transgression?” Some answer this question by saying that the great sin is murder, adultery, blasphemy, or unbelief. Luther disagreed. He concluded that if the Great Commandment was to love God with all the heart, then the Great Transgression was to fail to love God with all the heart. He saw a balance between great obligations and great sins.

Continue reading