In Touch October 28, 2010
Posted on October 28, 2010 by under Touché,

I Love Luther

This Sunday is Reformation Sunday: it falls on All Hallow’s Eve.  In 1517, Martin Luther pounded his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle.  Reformation was taking place before that time, but this is the date that history records as the start of the Protestant Reformation.

In the Reformed Church in America we trace our theological roots through a later reformer, John Calvin.  Luther has not gotten much play in my studies, but recently I have been listening to some lectures by my brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Bast.  A Luther scholar who was raised in the Reformed Church, he is a member of a Lutheran church in Tennessee.  He teaches Medieval history at the University of Tennessee, and his lectures have cause me to give Luther another look.   This Sunday I will don a Luther-like chapeau and during my message convey some of the particularly Lutheran aspects of the Reformation.  I like what I am finding.

Luther was an apostle of grace.  As a monk he tried to work out his own salvation on his terms, but finally he knew that he fell short.  Only when he rediscovered the book of Romans, and the truth that the righteous shall live by faith, did he realize that it is not what he does, but what Christ had already done that saved him.  His only charge was to accept this in faith and believe the gospel.  Thus, one quote from Luther that I often use is: “Love God and do as you please.”   A Calvinist would always have a hard time saying that.  In Geneva, Switzerland, Calvin worked at setting up a system of sanctification and brought the law back into life as guidance for Christian living.  Calvinism was much more successful than Lutheranism in developing worldwide, because we still love to have a structure to shape our faith.

Luther, in his preface to the New Testament, wrote this:  The gospel is nothing but the preaching about Christ, Son of God and of David, true God and man, who by his death and resurrection has overcome for us the sin, death and hell of all men who believe in him.  See to it, therefore, that you do not make a Moses out of Christ or a book of laws and doctrines out of the gospel.

I like Luther as I think he recognizes the danger of our desire for a religious system rather than the gospel.  This Sunday we celebrate the Reformation, but it also a time to celebrate a man who, as he stood condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, said, “Here I stand, I can choose no other.”  We stand with him almost five hundred years later.

In Faith,