30 December 2009

On Luther

If anyone tells you they have the key to unlocking Luther, you can almost stop the conversation right there. The amazing thing about Luther is that he is utterly unboxinable. Yes, that's a word. I just made it up. But it fits. Anyone can find almost anything in his writing, and so construct a Luther to fit one's own notions. After having tried this a time or two, and having Luther himself in other writings bring the whole thing down, I've finally decided to give up trying to box him in. He just won't stay put, I don't care how carefully you build the box [early Luther? late Luther? Hang it up!]. Better instead to delight in the truth he confesses in a given situation and always remember that that truth may not be his final word on a given subject if the context changes. A modern example: The Finns did a good job of highlighting a neglected aspect of his thought; but when a "school" develops out of that that thinks "theosis" is the key to interpreting all of Luther, they fumble. Hence, as Watson once argued about Luther's theology "Let God be God" so I'd argue about Luther's theologizing: "let Luther be Luther." Enjoy him and learn from him, laugh with him, cry with him, and learn from him to forsake all your own righteousness and find in Christ an altogether perfect and spotless righteousness that is given you as gift. He'll wrap you up in Christ in more ways than you think possible. Just don't try to think you've got HIM wrapped up. He'll surprise you every time.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have read Luther for 20 years. (American Edition & Postils only) When I ask other Pastors in my Circuit and District, I find the last Luther that any of them read was the Large Catechism. Yet, at almost every meeting I hear, "Luther said this and that and would say exactly what I think." This lead to a defense mechanism -- Humor.

"What would Luther say if he were alive today?"

"Get me out of here!!!"

Wonderful paragraph, I am going to attribute and print it as my book marker for my next read through of Luther on Genesis. According to my reading log I last read through it in 2000.

Peace in Christ
Pastor Piazza

Steve said...

You men are wonderful, my Christmas present to me this year was Luther's AE on disc. I have been happily clicking through it for several days now. It seems no matter where I end up wading (I have played in Genesis, Isaiah, Hebrews, His sermon for the Duke of Saxony) Luther blesses my soul and I usually find myself in over my head but wonderfully so.

I am so thankful for my Katie (actually my Bonnie) that let me splurge a little and get it.

Steve said...

By the way Pastor Weedon, Pastor Plvan says "Hi."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I always thought, "My dear Wittenberg Swine" summed him up perfectly well. We are swine whom God makes children - abandon your swinehood; rejoice in your adoption.

Anonymous said...

Truly the man is not "boxinable",,,, all one needs, however, to understand all of Luther is the Pauline 'sweet swap',,, that's the beginning and the ending of his thought and piety.
In some parts, it's also known as the "Augsburg Aha".

Greg said...

Two thoughts...

1) It seems as though people try to play the same games with Christ. They pick and choose the attributes or sayings that fit into their concept of things, and and up reducing our LORD into, well, someone that looks remarkably similar to the person they see in the mirror.

2) You comment about enjoying what Luther is confessing in a particular situation finds a parallel in how we listen to a single sermon on any given Sunday. What we are given to hear is most definitely not all that there is to say on the subject. And yet, this serves us well (I think). For it leads the hearer to want more, to dig deeper, and hopefully to end up mining the depth of the Scriptures. I always appreciate when a member asks me after a sermon, "Pastor, I understand what you said, but what about __________." Many times they ask a question that I myself had to ask when studying the text in preparation for preaching, but ended up on the cutting room floor. I've found Sunday morning Bible class to be a wonderful time to touch on some of the questions that a sermon doesn't have time (or isn't the place) to address. But I'm not saying anything you don't already know.

Have a blessed 2010!

Pr. Truwe, San Antonio!

William Weedon said...

Good thoughts, all. Thanks.

Steve, you tell Pr. "hi" right back! I miss that man.

Sweet swap indeed is a crucial and consistent theme in the good Dr.

Greg, how true. Thanks again for the hospitality this summer and a blessed new year to you and yours!!!

Dan Pharr said...

"...and learn from him to forsake all your own righteousness and find in Christ an altogether perfect and spotless righteousness that is given you as gift." There's your key to understanding Luther! (I think)

Pr. Lehmann said...

Actually, you once gave me the key to unlocking Luther and said you'd learned it from Dr. Nagel. ;-)

The key to unlocking Luther is to remember that he is a "wholehogger." I've found that keeping that in mind often helps me understand him, but it never boxes him in.