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Our Mighty Fortress

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October 31, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

Our Mighty Fortress

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in danger.”

- Psalm 46:1

Today is Reformation Day, an occasion celebrated by many Christians across the world. It marks the anniversary of that fateful day in 1517 when Martin Luther, a Catholic monk and professor of theology, posted his 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Though the event sparked the Protestant Reformation, Luther didn’t set out to divide the church; rather he aimed to make it better by arguing against corruptions like the aggressive marketing and sale of indulgences. We all are, through Chirst, responsible for carrying on this great “Lutheran” tradition. The Church is in need of constant renewal, as indeed are each of us. Five hundred years later, we alongside all followers of Jesus still sing with gusto: “God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.”

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.



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beaglelady - #37834

October 31st 2010

We should all remember the courage of Martin Luther.  Were it not for him we’d probably be buying indulgences with our credit cards.

(btw, Happy Halloween to all!)


Steve Ruble - #37879

November 1st 2010

Or, perhaps, we would less plagued with fundamentalism and the like. The Catholic church, for all its faults, at least recognized a role for reason, while Luther said, “Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”

It’s ironic that Luther is celebrated in this post, when this entire site is dedicated to refuting his teachings about reason.


freetoken - #37886

November 1st 2010

@Steve

Luther is also to supposedly have said: “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.”

Thomas Aquinas is probably a better fit for Biologos.


penman - #37887

November 1st 2010

“The Catholic church, for all its faults, at least recognized a role for reason, while Luther said, ‘Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.’ “

When Luther disparaged reason, he meant unregenerate reason applied to spiritual things. He didn’t mean unregenerate reason applied to mundane things (hence his love of Aesop’s fables: reason discoursing imaginatively on human morality), or regenerate reason applied to spiritual things (as in exegesis, of which Luther & Lutherans have done a lot).

“Reason is a ‘natural light’ that is kindled from the ‘divine light’, & ‘above all other things of this life it is somethying excellent & divine’. It is the discoverer & governor of all arts & sciences & ‘whatever of wisdom, power, virtue, & glory is possessed by men in this life’. About reason in this sense of the term, Luther can wax almost lyrical. What he condemns is the use men commonly make of their reason, when they apprehend, judge, & discourse about matters pertaining to God & their relationships with Him.”

(Philip Watson, Let God Be God, p.86)


AndyC - #37938

November 1st 2010

One can certainly find egregious behavior by Catholicism toward reason as well (Galileo, The Inquisition).

While there is certainly much to question regarding Luther, and much to commend about Catholicism’s historically respectful approach toward reason, the promiscuous snatching of Luther’s words from their proper context does nothing to further the debate.


Steve Ruble - #38018

November 1st 2010

@penman,

Would Luther be in favor, then, of using reason when we try to study the history of the earth?  Should we consider history to be “mundane”, and therefore an acceptable topic for we poor “unregenerate” reasoners to investigate, or is it a “spiritual thing” which should only be exegeted from the scriptures by properly “regenerate” reasoners?

Keep in mind that Luther is reported to have said, concerning heliocentrism, “However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.”  I’m not persuaded that his view of the “mundane” is as generous as Watson would like us to think.

@AndyC,

Perhaps my quotations are “promiscuous” (I wouldn’t know how to tell) but you have to admit that Luther would not have praised BioLogos’ core idea that one should re-interpret the Bible in light of scientific discoveries - or, to put it more gently, that one should not cling to strictly literal interpretations of the Bible even when the scientific evidence shows that such an interpretation must be false.  Would you agree?


Jon Garvey - #38072

November 2nd 2010

Steve Ruble - #38018

Let’s put this in context. Copernicus published his controversial (and as yet unproven) theory, in 1543 when Luther was 60. Luther died just 3 years later. The fact that he interacted with it at all is quite indicative of his interest in science.

It’s surely not unusual for old men, however liberal their principles, to say “new fangled nonsense” to young bloods turning the world upside down (cf Einstein and Quantum Theory). And Luther was not renowned for changing his mind quickly. The quotes above show he was informed enough about classical astronomy to know Copernicus was upending THAT, and at that point in time science and the classic reading of Scripture agreed.

I don’t think one is justified in using him as an example of Protestantism’s considered response to the new astronomy.


penman - #38073

November 2nd 2010

Steve Ruble #38018

=Would Luther be in favor, then, of using reason when we try to study the history of the earth?  Should we consider history to be “mundane”, and therefore an acceptable topic for we poor “unregenerate” reasoners to investigate, or is it a “spiritual thing” which should only be exegeted from the scriptures by properly “regenerate” reasoners?=

Hi Steve
I think you’ve spotlighted an overlap area. In other words, what do you do if you believe that Divine Revelation has said something about geology? I suspect Luther would have been a Young Earth Creationist, to go by my knowledge of his religious tradition. I’m not Lutheran, I’m Reformed, & things have been different in my tradition. Ever since geology got off the ground (no pun intended), almost all my Reformed heroes have accepted its findings, on the basis that it isn’t the primary function of Revelation to teach empirical science. Certainly I see nothing in scripture that demands a young earth & some things that tell against it (eg references to the “ancient mountains”).

Some of the pioneer geologists were themselves Reformed in theology, eg Hugh Miller. His “Testimony of the Rocks” has some of the best polemics against YECism even now.


Robert Byers - #38309

November 4th 2010

its reasonable to conclude Martin Luther was the greatest man that ever lived since the writing of the Gospels. even they were under Gods dictation.
He not only correction the ignorance and rejection of salvation by faith in Christs substitution at the cross. Yet further he was the reason so many people switched to the true faith.
This reformation is the origin of the modern civilization by way, under Gods blessing, of a great rise in moral and intellectual ability of the protestant peoples and so their nations. tHis especially so in the English and Scottish people. thus these people became the greatest people and greatest civiliztion in mankinds history. the origin also for the rise in knowledge or what is called science.
likewise today Evangelical Christians defend in North America Christianity and its right to influence society including origin subjects.
We are the greatest creationists and are defending Luthers cause by defending the truth of God and Genesis.
He deserves the Martin Luther holiday in America and not the minor regional ethnic advocate now given a national day to insult Southerners and all Americans.


beaglelady - #38514

November 4th 2010

Wow, let’s see how many people we can offend in one post.


Rev. Scott Mapes - #39282

November 10th 2010

My contribution is this:  In reading Luther, we must keep in mind his intensely emotional personality, and that a word that might have one meaning at one point of his writings might mean something entirely different at another point.  Careful and contectual reading should be the rule with Luther, I think.


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