The diary of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, 12 October 1976:“And for some reason, ‘religious’ people are always suspicious of joy. The first, the most important, the source of everything is, ‘Let my soul rejoice in the Lord ….’ The fear of sin does not prevent one from sinning. Joy in the Lord does.’”“We should fear and love God…” Martin Luther, The Small Catechism.Non-German speaking Lutherans have been condemned from the very beginning to misunderstanding this apparent paradox. Scripture is clear, John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Luther explained what he meant when he wrote, “Wir sollen Gott fürchten und lieben…” in “Von der Furcht des Herrn“ (Dr. Martin Luther, gehalten 1515 in der Pfarrkirche zu Wittenberg (W2 XII, 1696)) he writes that the reference here is not to „Furcht“ but to „Ehrfurcht.“ In other words, not to “Fear” but to “Awe.” The problem is that both nouns take the same verb, “fürchten”, whereby a misunderstanding has been created that apparently no English-speaking pastor or scholar was willing or able to clear up.So, I think the Great Basil got it wrong. We begin to sin maybe even before we are born, but certainly every day of our lives, because we are sinners. That is what we do, and that is whom God loves.Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
I want to look that up, George. I absolutely believe that awe is at the very heart of faith itself. But I'd be a tad hesitant to assume that something he wrote in 1515 clarifies something else he wrote in 1528. His clarity usually runs in the other direction. Still I'm very curious to read it. Thanks for the tip!
P.S. Specifically as Luther unites "fear" to "fear His wrath." I'm having a hard time wrapping the mind around being in awe of His wrath???
Will, here is something from 1535, Commentary on Galatians, Chapter 5, v. 1: “Our conscience is free and quiet because it no longer has to fear the wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who can adequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for Christ's sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and save us in this life and in the life to come.”I understand that Luther’s belief in the wrath of God is a fairly complex subject, but I also believe that what he writes in the Commentary on Galatians is what he believes to be absolutely and everlasting true as far as God’s relationship to those who are in Christ is concerned.Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart(now a resident of Texas)
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