Tag Archives: Martin Luther

Martin Luther Says to Drink Away Temptation


I recently posted “C.S. Lewis Drank Three Pints of Beer in the Morning — A Letter From Tolkien.”

So, to continue with the theme of famous Christians who write letters dealing with alcohol:

Lapham’s Quarterly recently offered this letter by Martin Luther, written to Jerome Weller. Here’s an excerpt dealing with the temptation to be melancholy:

“Whenever the devil harasses you thus, seek the company of men, or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you, ‘Do not drink,’ answer him, ‘I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.’ One must always do what Satan forbids. What other cause do you think that I have for drinking so much strong drink, talking so freely and making merry so often, except that I wish to mock and harass the devil who is wont to mock and harass me. Would that I could contrive some great sin to spite the devil, that he might understand that I would not even then acknowledge it and that I was conscious of no sin whatever. We, whom the devil thus seeks to annoy, should remove the whole Decalogue from our hearts and minds.”

That, Protestant evangelicals, is your great-granddaddy.

Amen.

Degrading or uplifting the believer? Or, a few thoughts sprung from Aquinas and L’Abri Fellowship


A certain cast of mind in Protestantism insists on a dim view of humanity, and this view continues to apply to the redeemed believer. Having been exposed to that cast of mind quite a bit, I have had major struggles with it. In 2001, I read an article by Roger Kimball in The New Criterion. Kimball quoted Aquinas: “Well-ordered self-love, whereby a man desires a fitting good for himself, is right and natural.” I thought this orthodox Christian’s quotation scandalous, because it didn’t fit with the experiences and understandings layered into my mind from years of churches and Christian schools. The article appeared in 2001. More recently, it dawned on me that very few orthodox-Protestants-with-a-high-view-of-Scripture had ever demonstrated to me the attitude Aquinas demonstrates in that quotation — with the big exception of the folks at L’Abri Fellowship, which I had visited three years before Kimball’s article appeared. There, the scandal began with the mere title of a book by a close affiliate of Francis Schaeffer. Several well-worn copies of Udo Middelmann’s book Pro-Existence occupied the L’Abri library. With a rigorous, conservative affirmation of  Scripture, Middelmann endorsed humans being human. The only for-instance I have available to me at the moment is, “Only in creative activity do we externalize the identity we have as men made in the image of God. This then is the true basis for work.” I think I have better quotations from the book somewhere, but the essence of the book should be noticed: Humans beings are made in the image of God, and that’s part of their value. A friend once told me that Martin Luther thought the image of God had been replaced, in the unredeemed, after Christ’s death, with the image of the Devil, at least as far as God is concerned. I don’t think my friend accepts that point of view, which is good, because it’s worth noting the consequences of such a problematic thought: if you want to banish the image of the Devil on the earth, why not endorse a Holocaust? Why not abortion, euthanasia, death penalty? Why not more war? Well, I think history demonstrates that the worst and simplest translation of a thought gets the widest broadcast. The point is this: Somehow, Merely Human should mean neither Devil nor God. If culturally conscious Christians wonder why their fellow redeemed don’t seem to be on the cutting edge of arts or sciences, maybe they could start by asking how the individual believer assesses himself, as well as his own creative, entrepreneurial, and intellectual gifts. If a believer really assesses himself as merely a rotten sinner, not only does he deny the standing that New Testament says he has in Christ, he is also unlikely to see himself capable of using his gifts and talents in service of God and fellow humans.

How Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible influenced the German language


From The Economist‘s review of German: Biography of a Language by Ruth H. Sanders:

Perhaps the most celebrated turning point in the history of the German language is the work of another rebel against Rome, Martin Luther. His belief in salvation through personal faith alone, not the intermediation of the Church, led him to violate a longstanding prohibition on translating the Bible into vernacular languages. Luther had to compromise between the many different “Germans” that filled the German lands in those days, hundreds of years before there was a single German state (the creation of which is Ms Sanders’s fifth turning point). Luther borrowed an emerging standard used by the Holy Roman Empire, “chancellery German”, as a base with some currency in different regions.

Luther’s genius was to infuse his translation with the words he heard on the street in his bit of Saxony, in east-central Germany. He obsessively asked friends and fellow scholars which dialectal words would be most widely understood. The common touch was so successful that a Catholic opponent complained that “even tailors and shoemakers…read it with great eagerness.” It was the bestseller of the century and remains the most popular German translation. Rarely has a single man had such a mark on a language. The German of Luther’s Bible was nobody’s native language in his day. Today it is so universal that it threatens Germany’s once-vibrant dialects with death by standardisation.

Tip Jar

Martin Luther wanted as many poets and writers as possible


“I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature, pure theology cannot at all endure, just as heretofore, when letters have declined and lain prostrate, theology, too, has wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate; nay, I see that there has never been a great revelation of the Word of God unless he has first prepared the way by the rise and prosperity of languages and letters, as though they were John the Baptists…. Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see that by these studies, as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily…. Therefore I beg of you that at my request (if that has any weight) you will urge your young people to be diligent in the study of poetry and rhetoric.”
— Martin Luther, from Luther’s Correspondence, quoted by Martin E. Marty in the forward to Readings in Christian Humanism

Catholic Cardinal helps plant trees in memory of the Reformation


From a Nov. 2 Ecumenical News International article:

A top Vatican official has joined other global Christian leaders in the eastern German town where Martin Luther broke with the papacy, at a tree-planting ceremony that looks to closer ties on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

The ceremony took place in Wittenberg, the German town known as “Lutherstadt”, 492 years after Luther nailed his epoch-changing 95 theses to a church door there, leading to the breach with the 16th-century papacy

“It is possible for us today to together learn from Martin Luther,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity as he planted the first of 500 trees on 1 November in a landscaped Luther Garden, forming part of the celebrations for 2017.

Churches worldwide are being encouraged to adopt one of the trees planned for the Luther Garden and also to plant a tree themselves, to denote a link with the birthplace of the Reformation. Kasper said a tree would be planted at the Vatican in Rome.

Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Reformed leaders gathered alongside Kasper in the Luther Garden in sunny autumn weather.

“This newly planted tree reminds us that Martin Luther’s call for reform in the Church was a call of penitence that also affects us today,” said Kasper at the ceremony, which followed the anniversary of Luther’s action on 31 October 1517 that led to often bitter quarrels between Protestants and Catholics.

Read the rest here. I found it on Kendall Harmon’s blog.

Four Ways to Celebrate Reformation Day


As always, Reformation Day coincides with Halloween. But as our Catholic brothers and sisters know, Christian celebrations and leftover paganism work together quite well.

Here are some thoughts on how to wed Halloween and Reformation Day.

1. Instead of playing Ring-and-Run, try Nail-and-Run.

You remember the old ring-and-run trick: sneak up to someone’s doorstep, ring her doorbell, run, hide, and watch the hapless lady of the house come to the door and look around.

To celebrate Reformation Day, take a page from Martin Luther.

Instead of ringing the doorbell and running away, nail some profound thoughts to the door and then run away.

2. Give Reese’s Theses to trick-or-treaters.

Using your home printer and PhotoShop, recreate the Reese’s Pieces bag as Reese’s Theses.

Now open a few bags of Reese’s Pieces. Count out 95 candies and insert them in a Reese’s Theses bag. Seal and set by the front door.

Image how cool it will be if someone comes to the door dressed like the Pope.

3. This year, try the un-costume

As many Protestants believe today, robes and mantels and cassocks are all Romish trappings.

Roman Catholic priests wear these offensive costumes of robes as a statement against justification by faith.

There is only one fully adequate, completely satisfactory act of defiance in the face of these vestments.

You guessed it. You must dis-robe. You can’t be justified by boxers — or briefs.

4. Instead of handing out evangelistic tracts, preach sound theology.

When you hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, tell them, “This is an example of unmerited favor.”
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Happy Reformation Day! Happy Halloween!

Halloween is also Reformation Day, on which we note that Wittenberg is not so Protestant


I am not among the anti-Halloween scaremongers and killjoys, yet I wish more people also knew the last day of October as Reformation Day.

This is a bit obligatory: On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his not-so-anti-papal Ninety-Five Theses on an important door in Wittenberg, Germany, and that act more or less marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

These days, however, Wittenberg is only 10 percent Protestant.

The German news outlet Spiegel Online reports:

Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation in the German city of Wittenberg 500 years ago. But, today, only 10 percent of its population is Protestant. Church leaders have launched a major drive to change that — but have come up against the city’s communist past.

It’s impossible to walk through Wittenberg, also known as “Luther City,” without stumbling across reminders of Martin Luther. There’s the “Luther oak,” then Luther Street, which leads to the Luther House. Along the way are restaurants offering a “Luther menu” (choice of meat or fish) and a travel agency touting a tour boat named after the city, which couples can book for their weddings. The bars serve Luther beer; the bakery has Luther bread. There’s a huge memorial to Luther in the main marketplace. And the city is crawling with guides decked out in long frocks à la Luther. The city has been completely Lutherized.

Wittenberg, in fact, is as important to the history of Protestantism as Rome is for the Catholic Church. But there’s an essential difference: While Rome is full of Catholics, less than 10 percent of Wittenberg’s 46,000 citizens are Protestants.

Read the rest of the article here.