Martin Luther. As the 500th anniversary of the reformation this name will be on the lips of many people. Yet, most people will know of him little more than the fact that he “started” the Reformation – or better yet he caused the split between Catholics and Protestants. Some won’t even know that! They will just know that he is the guy that started Lutheran churches….. *sigh*
Yet Luther is so much more than just those things! Luther helped to rediscover the doctrine of justification by faith, “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls!” He was also a firm defender of the 5 sola’s: sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, sola Christus, sola Deo Gloria.
This new book, Martin Luther in His Own Words, edited by Jack Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer attempts to give readers an introduction to the essential writers of this German Reformer. Organized around the 5 Sola’s, the editors have included excerpts from some of Luther’s most important works including:
Commentary on Galatians
Preface to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans
The Bondage of the Will
Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer
If you don’t have time to sift through all of Luther’s works but want a good introduction you don’t need to look further than this book. If you are intimidated about picking up theological literature that was written 500 years ago, again look no further! The editors have included concise but extremely helpful introductions to each of the sections.
If you are a pastor who is looking for one place where you can get the best of Luther’s works – look here. If you are a Bible college student who has always been interested in Luther but doesn’t know where to start. Look here! Finally, if you would like to do some sort of small group discussion on the Reformation, this would be a great place to start. So look here!
If any of these categories apply to you, and you would like a free copy of this book, you are in luck! In a few days I will be giving away one copy of this book. So keep your eyes on my blog, I will be explaining the giveaway soon!
I just finished Tim Keller’s new book on prayer. It is at one theological, practical, and pastoral. Overall it was a great book. However, there were a few chapters that really stuck out to me. One of those chapters was a chapter where Keller covers Augustine’s, Luther’s, and Calvin’s theology of prayer through the examination of letters that they wrote to laypeople on the nature of prayer.
Keller tells the story of Luther’s barber, Peter Beskendorf, who asked Luther to give him a simple way to pray. Luther sent him a letter with “rich but practical set of guidelines for prayer.”
First, Luther suggests that one should pray twice a day. Once in the morning, before anything else is accomplished, and once at night. Morning and evening prayer is a discipline that must be cultivated whether we feel like praying or not.
Second, Luther suggests that we should “focus our thoughts and warm our affections for prayer.” In order to do this he suggest contemplation or meditation upon scripture. He advises Peter Beskendorf to begin his prayer by contemplating the word…
I want your heart to be stirred and guided…rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer.
After advising contemplation Luther describes how to do it. He says:
I divide each biblical command into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is I think of each commandment at first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly. Second I turn into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.
Keller says that “this turns every biblical text into ‘a school text, a song book, a penitential book, and a prayer book.”
Practically this means that first we must figure out what the text is saying. Second, we must ask how this text leads us to praise and thank God; third we ask God how this text leads us to repent of and confess sin; finally we ask God how this text prompts us to appeal to God in petition and supplication.
So the next time you do your “quiet time” try Luther’s Four – Text method! I would love to hear how it works out!
Why should we read the Old Testament? It seems pretty obvious to us today, but in 16th century Germany there was a tendency to look down upon the value of the Old Testament. (No doubt Luther’s Law/Grace dichotomy had something to do with this…) Nevertheless Luther advocates for a figural sort of reading of the Old Testament, in other wrods he asks us to read the Old Testament in light of the New:
There are some who have little regard for the Old Testament. They thing of it as a book that was given to the Jewish people only and is not ouw ot date, containing only stories from past times… But Christ says in John 5, “Search the Scriptures, for it is they that bear witness to me… The Scriptures of the Old Testament are not to be despised but diligently read….Therefore dismiss your own opinions and feelings and think of the Scriptures as the loftiest and noblest of holy things, as the riches of mines that can never be sufficiently explored, in order that you may find that divine wisdom which God here lays before you in such simple guise as to quench all pride. Here you will find the swaddling cloths and manger in which Christ lies… Simple and lowly are these swaddling cloths, but ear is the treasure, Chris who lies in them.
Just as our treasured messiah was hidden and wrapped up in the swaddling cloths while he was in the manger, Christ our messiah is wrapped up in the swaddling cloths of the Law, Writings, and Prophets.
When it comes to atonement theologies people often break them up into classic, satisfaction, and subjective categories. However it might be better to classify atonement theories according to whom the atonement is directed towards. For instance, Patristic atonement theories tend to say that Christ’s work aims at achieving something in regard to the “powers.” Anselmian theories tend to have a God-ward orientation. God is the one who is “satisfied” or whose justice is met. Finally, Abelardian theories tend to (primarily) argue that atonement does something primarily to us human beings. So we might want to ask of Luther – where is atonement directed?
The following passage gives us some insight:
For, by Himself to overcome the world’s sin, death, and the curse, and God’s wrath, this is not the work of any created being, but of almighty God. Therefore He who of Himself overcame these must actually in his nature be God. For against these so mighty powers, sin, death, and the curse, which of themselves have dominion in the world and in all creation, another and a higher power must appear, which can be none other than God. To destroy sin, to smite death, to take away the curse by Himself, to bestow righteousness, bring life to light, and give the blessing: to annihilate the former and to create the latter: this is the work of God’s omnipotence alone. But when the Scripture ascribes to Christ all this, then is he Himself the Life, and Righteousness, and Blessing – that is in his nature and His essence He is God…. When therefore we teach that men are justified through Christ, and Christ is the conqueror of sin, death, and the everlasting curse, then at the same time we testify that He is in his nature God. – Commentary on Galatians 3:13
There are a couple things to note from this passage:
The Presence of “Powers” – For Luther these powers are sin, death, and the curse. Much like classic theories, the problem is our bondage to these powers.
The Importance of Incarnation for Atonement – Most Patristic theologians believed that atonement started the moment Christ became incarnate. (See Irenaeus and T.F. Torrance’s appropriation of his theology.) Its interesting to note that for Luther atonement depends quite simply upon the battle waged by the divine nature against the powers. This is expressed very clearly when Luther says that “a higher power must appear, which can be none other than God….” i.e. for Christ to accomplish the victory he must be in his very nature God.
Victory not Payment – Again this is very clear, the powers have to be defeated. We are under bondage to the powers. However quite unlike the classical theories, the powers aren’t demonic, they are sin, death, and the curse (and elsewhere the Law).
From this passage alone it seems as though Luther doesn’t favor a “God-ward” atonement, rather it is a version of atonement aimed at achieving something in regard to the powers.
A few days ago I posted some thoughts on what I think Paul meant by “the righteousness of God” in Romans 3:21-26
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
When I asked my EBC students – what does Paul mean by “righteousness of God” it seemed like they kept getting tripped up by this phrase. So I tried to provide some clarification as to what Paul really meant. What I noticed was that their answers were mainly based on some historical views of what God’s righteousness is. These are more-so “theological” views rather than “exegetical views.” They might be right and true, but they aren’t what this passage is talking about…
Here are a couple of historical views as to what Paul meant by “the righteousness of God” in Romans 3:21-26
1) God’s Justice – This view, popular prior to the Reformation, tended to refer to the righteousness of God as his justice particularly in the context of his role as a judge over sinful humanity.
While this certainly is a part of God’s righteousness, we should not think of God’s righteousness as simply his judgment upon guilt. God certainly is the righteous judge but he is so much more than that!
2) The Righteousness Imputed to Believers – Martin Luther really popularized the idea that the righteousness of God is God’s gracious gift of righteousness that is given to all those who believe in Jesus Christ. This is the sort of righteousness that emerges from God’s own righteousness, it is imparted to those who have faith, and God recons those who possess this alien righteousness as justified. Note what Luther himself says:
For God does not want to save us by our own righteousness but by an extraneous righteousness which does not originate in ourselves but comes to us from beyond ourselves, which does not arise on our earth but comes from heaven. Therefore we must come to know this righteousness which is utterly external and foreign to us. That is why our personal righteousness must be uprooted.
-Martin Luther’s Lectures on Romans
This conception of “the righteousness of God” is definitely the most common among evangelicals. However, despite that this concept certainly exists within scripture, Romans 3:21 doesn’t not refer to this sort of righteousness.
3) God’s Saving Activity – Ernst Kasemman popularize the notion that the phrase “the righteousness of God” connotes God’s active sovereignty over the whole cosmos, especially God’s power rescue and restore creation. As Bruce Longenecker says, “The righteousness of God is shorthand for talking about God’s act of cosmic rectification, in which God is exercising his victory over the forces of chaos that roam through his creation and set it in disrepair” (Thinking Through Paul). This reading fits well with how the term is used in the OT, during 2nd temple Judaism, and Paul’s narrative theology.
It is my opinion that this third option is the one that best fits what Paul is talking about in Romans 3….
Which of these three interpretations do you lean towards?
I love valentines day! Not because I love the holiday itself, but because it generated some really good tweets. Two of the best Valentine’s day hashtags were #ActivistPickupLines and #AcademicValetines. Now that V-Day is officailly over here are some of the best tweets from those two hashtags.
Activist Pickup Lines
I’d invite you over to my place, but I don’t believe in private property. #ActivistPickupLines – @SamWieseyes
Would you like to redistribute resources by taking me out to dinner? #ActivistPickupLines – @Suey_Park
If you’re asking for action, my answer is affirmative. #ActivistPickupLines – @ReadJerome
I don’t mean to drone on and on but you made a strategic strike straight to my heart. #ActivistPickupLines – @drJ512
Girl—sorry, girl is belittling. Woman—too patriarchal. And sorry I assumed you identify as female. I’ll just go. #ActivistPickupLines – @heretichusband
The Best #ActivistPickupLines is ……
If I said your body was subject to pernicious, patriarchal, media-constructed scrutiny, would you hold it against me?#ActivistPickupLines – @Geecologist
“I’ve never seen bell curves as wonderful as yours.” #AcademicValentines – @ComDoc_H
You spin me right round, baby right round Like a centrifuge #AcademicValentines – @SanaBau
Do you believe in love at first cite? #AcademicValentines – @ExileonWainSt
My love letter for you was vigorously peer reviewed #AcademicValentines – @tmsRuge
Would you like to be my *p<0.05 other? #Academicvalentines – @babyattachmode
The Best #AcademicValentines is ……
How do I love thee? Let me deconstruct the ways. #AcademicValentines-@tumbulwead
And as a bonus here is a theological Valentine’s Day card… (via @eerdmansbooks)