CS Lewis on Predestination

English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama by CS Lewis
English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama by CS Lewis 

CS Lewis does not take a hostile view of predestination. He merely refuses to engage with what he calls its ‘darker’ side, and is skeptical of those who assert it apparently without feeling.

As you’ll see at the end of this post, he is far more comfortable declaring its pastoral strength to the believer and leave it there. I note also that both here and in his letters he uses Luther’s pastoral advice to provides assurance rather than allow a believer to sink into gloom.

Reformed Doctrine marked by joy and hope rather than heaviness
He writes, ‘It must be clearly understood that they [i.e. Protestant doctrines] were at first doctrines not of terror but of joy and hope: indeed, more than hope, fruition, for as Tyndale says, the converted man is already tasting eternal life.’

CS Lewis on Predestination
The doctrine of predestination, says the XVIIth Article[i], is ‘full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons’.

But what of ungodly persons? Inside the original experience no such question arises. There are no generalizations. We are not building a system. When we begin to do so, very troublesome problems and very dark solutions will appear.

But these horrors, so familiar to the modern reader (and especially to the modern reader of fiction), are only by-products of the new theology. They are astonishingly absent from the thought of the first Protestants.

Relief and buoyancy are the characteristic notes. In a single sentence of the Tischreden[ii] Luther tosses the question aside for ever. Do you doubt whether you are elected to salvation? Then say your prayers, man, and you may conclude that you are. It is as easy as that.’[iii]

It is certainly true that modern novelists have written from a perspective of absolute abandonment, but is it true that the first Protestants didn’t wrestle with the apparent downside of the idea of predestination?

Your thoughts?

To read the next post in this series (regarding Lewis on Calvin and Joy) click here

For the first post from Lewis’s thoughts on Reformed Doctrine and the Puritans from English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama click here

©2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Lewis is referring to The 39 Articles of Religion (1563), the doctrinal statement of the Church of England.

[ii] I.e., Table Talk – a collection of anecdotes, quotes and humourous sayings of Martin Luther recorded by some of his students

[iii] CS Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1954), pp 33-34

CS Lewis and the Puritans

CS Lewis at his desk
CS Lewis at his desk

What did CS Lewis think of the Puritans?
It is sometimes implied that Lewis leant as equally towards Catholic as Protestant doctrine. Some might wrongly assume that his views on hell and the afterlife (for those outside of the Christian faith) meant that he wasn’t familiar with Reformed teaching or the works of the Puritans.

But even a superficial reading of his masterpiece of literary criticism, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (excluding drama), plunges us straight into his well-formed opinions of the major influences on that century and the centuries that followed it.

His discussion of puritan and reformed thinking is not only easy to grasp but thoroughly enjoyable. Typical of Lewis.

Here are a few gems to whet your appetite…

A correct understanding of the goal of puritanism
‘The puritans were so called because they claimed to be purists or purifiers in ecclesiastical polity: not because they laid more emphasis than other Christians on ‘purity’ in the sense of chastity.’

A correct understanding of the nature of ‘puritan’ experience
‘We want, above all, to know what it felt like to be an early Protestant.

One thing is certain. It felt very unlike being a ‘puritan’ such as we meet in nineteenth-century fiction. Dickens’s Mrs. Clennam, trying to expiate her early sin by a long life of voluntary gloom, was doing exactly what the first Protestants would have forbidden her to do. They would have thought her whole conception of expiation papistical. On the Protestant view one could not, and by God’s mercy, need not, expiate one’s sins.’

Luther understood Paul correctly, according to CS Lewis
Luther understood Paul correctly, according to CS Lewis

Tyndale and Luther properly understood Paul’s doctrine of Justification by Faith and not by works
‘In the mind of a Tyndale or Luther, as in the mind of St. Paul himself, this theology was by no means an intellectual construction made in the interests of speculative thought. It springs directly out of a highly specialized religious experience; and all its affirmations, when separated from that context, become meaningless or else mean the opposite of what was intended…’

‘Catastrophic Conversion’ essential to the experience of joy and bliss
‘The experience is that of catastrophic conversion.

The man who has passed through it feels like one who has waked from a nightmare into ecstasy.

Like an accepted lover, he feels that he has done nothing, and never could have done anything, to deserve such astonishing happiness. Never again can he ‘crow from the dunghill of desert’.

All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. And all will continue to be free, unbounded grace.

His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place.

Fortunately they need not. Bliss is not for sale, cannot be earned.

‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once.

He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved.

It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang.

To read the next post (CS Lewis on Predestination) click here

To read a review of AN Wilson’s biography on Lewis click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

The Amazing Power of a Testimony – Bilney and Latimer

Thomas Bilney
Thomas Bilney

Hugh Latimer was one of the shining lights at Cambridge University in the early 1500’s. He was intelligent, articulate, influential – a born leader.

But he was both alarmed and repulsed by the new Lutheran teachings that were slowly pervading the intellectual discussions of the University.

Speaking against the Reformation

When he graduated as Bachelor of Divinity in 1524 he was required to speak at a public lecture on a theological theme.

Biographer Robert Demaus wrote that, ‘With the characteristic zeal of an ardent lover of the Church, indignant at the success of the heresy which was everywhere finding disciples, he directed his whole oration against Philip Melancthon, the eminent German Reformer, who had recently impugned the authority of the school-doctors, and had maintained that they must all be tested by the supreme standard of Holy Scripture.’ (Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer, A Biography, Religious Tract Society, London 1904, p.45)

Latimer even said that the reading of Scripture was dangerous! But there was someone in the crowd that day whose heart and mind had already been transformed by the ‘heresy’ of an open Bible. His name was Thomas Bilney.

Bilney was very clear that Luther had been correct, and that Scripture was our only true guide. Our justification before God was not on the basis of our good works, or of obedience to church ritual, but rather through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But how was he to convince such an important and formidable opponent as Latimer?

He who is wise wins souls!

Being a wise soul winner, Bilney sought to speak to Latimer directly. Latimer had already been ordained and was therefore able to hear confessions. Bilney considered that he had a particular confession that he wanted Latimer to hear.

And so, Latimer, no doubt expecting that his stinging sermon had turned Bilney back to the old ways, agreed to a private meeting where he would hear Bilney’s confession.

For something like two hours, Thomas Bilney, on his knees, faithfully told the story of his desperate attempts to please God and how, through faith in Jesus, he had experienced a breakthrough at last. He emphasised the vital role the Bible had played in his relationship with God as opposed to the scholars of his day.

Latimer said, ‘To say the truth, by his confession I learned more than before in many years.’ (Demaus p.45)

As JH Merle d’Aubigne writes, ‘It was not the penitent but the confessor who received absolution. Latimer viewed with horror the obstinate war he had waged against God; he wept bitterly; but Bilney consoled him.

‘Brother, said he, ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.’
These two young men, then locked in a solitary chamber at Cambridge, were one day to mount the scaffold…’ (The Reformation in England, Banner of Truth, Vol 1 p.204)

Latimer and Ridley, standing together to the very end
Latimer and Ridley, standing together to the very end

They did indeed, both giving up their lives as martyrs in Oxford, being burned at the stake. You can see the place today, marked by a small cross in stone on the ground. In the end, Latimer gave everything he had for Jesus Christ.

The testimony of a changed life is powerful.

From the day a man said, ‘One thing I know, I was blind but now I can see!’ (Jn 9:25) to Bilney reaching the hard heart of Latimer, to you in your situation.

Be encouraged! What God has done for you, by forgiving your sins through Christ, is powerful – even before those with greater influence or learning or who seem resistant.

Don’t be silent. Find a way to graciously and appropriately share the good news of God’s amazing love with someone.

Latimer went on to be one of the English Reformation’s great heroes, preaching before the king and in many circles of influence. Who knows what God might do through you, and those you speak to?

You can purchase JH Merle d’Aubigne’s ‘The Reformation in England’ in two volumes here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

John Calvin and Martin Luther – some differences

Martin Luther (left) and John Calvin

John Calvin – a Second Generation Reformer!
Calvin was 26 years younger than Luther and so represented the next generation of Reformers. Luther was German and Calvin was French and their combined influence on Europe was colossal. While being hugely influenced by Luther, and certainly building on his insights, Calvin didn’t agree with everything the older reformer had written.

Sanctification
Luther had rediscovered Justification by faith in Christ alone as the key to salvation. He had hammered that point home – and needed to! Calvin, in addition to a clear commitment to Justification by faith, also emphasised sanctification (obedience to God and holiness) in the life of the new believer. It was not enough to throw off the shackles of dead religion and come to Christ in a moment of decision – the new converts’ life should now be lived in a God-honouring way, according to the teaching of Scripture. It’s not that Luther rejected this, but merely that Calvin emphasised the importance of a comprehensive holiness in life.

The Local Church
Because of this commitment to sanctification, Calvin also emphasised the role of the local church in regulating and training believers to live godly lives. This immediately raised issues of discipline within the context of the church, and also the extent and nature of the authority of local church leadership. Calvinists have never really managed to break free from the perception that they are ‘disciplinarians’.

Unity of the Bible
Calvin was careful not to set the New Testament against the Old and stressed the continuity of the revelation of God throughout the Bible as a whole. His teaching style was far more progressive than Luther’s who still indulged in fanciful allegory. While Luther brought the Bible out of the darkness, Calvin laid the foundations and set the standard for Biblical study and exposition. Geneva became a respected centre of Biblical exposition.

The Lord’s Supper
Calvin also disagreed with Luther about the nature of the Lord’s Supper. He didn’t believe that Christ was literally in the bread (Christ was, after all, literally, physically at the right hand of the Father). He also disagreed with some of Luther’s opponents, that the bread and wine were purely symbolic and nothing more.

Calvin argued that, in the taking of the bread and wine, Christ’s presence comes to us. Jesus visits us as we partake of it. Calvin used the analogy of the Spirit coming in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism.

He wrote, ‘Our Lord, wishing to give a visible appearance to his Spirit at the baptism of Christ, presented him under the form of a dove. St. John the Baptist, narrating the fact, says, that he saw the Spirit of God descending. If we look more closely, we shall find that he saw nothing but the dove, in respect that the Holy Spirit is in his essence invisible.’ (John Calvin, Short treatise on the Lord’s Supper – 1540)

In the same way, while the bread and wine are symbols, nevertheless, Christ really does come to us, and is in truly present, by faith.

The Doctrine of Election
Also, while Luther and other reformers were very clear about the sovereignty of God, and the doctrine of election, and on the nature of the freedom/bondage of the will, it was Calvin who was drawn into a defence of those doctrines of grace, more so than others.

Because the focus of debate on issues of God’s sovereignty in salvation was on John Calvin, his defense on those particular points have come to be popularly known as ‘Calvinism’.

Source: Andrew Johnston, The Protestant Reformation in Europe (Harlow: Longman 1991).

We’ll look at Election in more detail here

For more on Luther begin here

For more on Calvin begin here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Influence of Good School Teachers

The History Changers are Often Made by School Teachers

CS Lewis

cslewis
I was surprised to learn that CS Lewis hated school. He struggled intensely with the boarding school environment (he likened it to a concentration camp and a learning factory). He only really began to find genuine delight in learning when his father finally gave in and provided private tutoring for him.

One particular tutor, William Kirkpatrick, helped Lewis love both the classics and the power of logic. And, although both tutor and student were atheists at the time, this powerful blend of literary discovery and persistent logic produced in Lewis a love of learning that blossomed into an avalanche of brilliant lectures, sermons, radio programmes, novels and books which have helped steer multitudes to faith in Christ.

Martin Luther at school

I was likewise surprised on reviewing Kittleson’s superb biography of Martin Luther to find a similar pattern. Bad teaching, or teaching methods – which produced nothing in the life of a future history-maker – followed by good teaching, or rather an encouraging teacher, which catapulted Luther’s academic career forward.

This delight in learning and logic, was brought to bear upon Luther’s own discoveries in the New Testament, and then in his massive literary output, and the influence that followed.

Of his earlier education Kittleson writes:
‘The methods used by his teachers were consistently condemned as ‘barbaric’ by great educators such as Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Coercion and ridicule were chief among their techniques. Any child caught speaking German (the goal was to teach them in Latin) was beaten with a rod. The one who had done least well in the morning was required to wear a dunce’s cap and was addressed as an ass all afternoon.

Demerits were then added up for the week, and each student went home with one more caning to make the accounts balance.’ (Kittleson, Luther the Reformer, IVP p.37)

Luther hated it. Just like Lewis centuries later.

But all was to change. Luther was moved to a school in Eisenach. There ‘He found a teacher who could awaken his imagination while sharpening his mind. In his case the teacher was the headmaster of the school, one John Trebonius, whom Luther later praised as a gifted man.

Trebonius certainly must have instilled a very different atmosphere in this school from what prevailed at Mansfield, for there Luther also struck up a lifelong friendship with a teacher named Wiegand Geldennupf.

These men were more than figures of authority…As Luther now neared the end of his studies in Latin school, he could give speeches and write essays and poetry. He could also read some of the ancient authors…

The great pleasure he derived from these studies showed later in his life as he sat down to translate Aesop’s Fables into German and insisted that everyone must be a student of the classics and of history.’ (ibid p.39)

You and I may not be familiar with the names of Trebonius or Geldennupf or Kirkpatrick but they were the human catalysts that awakened the genius in their students.

When you see a skillful school teacher
When you see a school teacher, tutor or professor skilled in their work, helping to awaken a delight in learning in their students, take a moment to encourage them in the important work they are doing.

Who knows what great reformer might arise, or what great apologist might emerge to help steer a generation to grace, once God has intervened to redeem their skills and desires.

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

To check some of the differences between Martin Luther and John Calvin click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Luther on Anxiety, Studying and the Restoration of the Church

martin_luther_31

This will be our last visit inside the Luther household. Reluctantly, we must take our leave. And here, Luther gives us some parting wisdom regarding anxiety, study, preaching, the purpose of the church and on reaching our friends and neighbours with the good news of Jesus Christ.

On Anxiety
‘Time heals many things but worrying about them does not.’ (p.200)
‘Nothing has hurt me more than worrying, especially at night.’ (p.234)

On the need for diligent study
‘God’s gifts are boundless. He heaps upon us all things at once in the greatest profusion. He gives us the liberal arts and languages. The choicest books are to be had for a song. But woe to our sloth!’ (p.169)

On not preaching ‘over peoples’ heads’
‘In my sermons I do not think of Bugenhagen, Jonas and Melancthon, for they know as much as I do, so I preach not to them but to my little Lena and Hans and Elsa. It would be a foolish gardener who would attend to one flower to the neglect of the great majority.’ (p. 192-193)

‘Let all your sermons be very plain and simple. Think not of the prince but of the uncultivated and ignorant people. The prince himself is made of the same stuff as they! I preach very simply to the uneducated and it suits everybody. Though I know Greek, Hebrew and Latin, these languages I keep for use among ourselves.’ (p.193)

On the best result of good theological study

‘The best thing that theology can teach us is to know Christ. Therefore Peter says: “Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”’ (p.171)

On the Restoration of the Church
‘Building a church is not instituting ceremonies…but freeing consciences and strengthening faith.’ (p.227)

On bringing the gospel to the world
‘The first and greatest commandment requires faith and fear of God, the second [requires] love to one’s neighbour, which means we ought to preach to and pray for them and not flee into corners.’ (p.153)

(All references are from Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA)

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

In Conversation with Martin Luther – Table Talk

So what was Martin Luther really like? Well, we do have a relatively good idea from the notes taken down by students and friends of his and compiled into a book that was called ‘Table Talk’.

We’ve already seen Luther in humourous mood. Here we get a closer look at the serious side of the man: his likes, dislikes, and passions. These various statement were written by those who heard him in various social contexts in his own home and provide us with a front row opportunity to hear from him.

Luther was spurred on to reform by a charismatic prophetic word
So let’s jump in immediately at the controversial end of the pool and note that Luther was encouraged to initiate reform and to persevere by news of a prophetic word conveyed to him by his spiritual advisor and overseer Johan Staupitz (Staupitz was vicar-general of the Augustinian monks in Germany). Recalling the time when he was struggling with the implications of Scripture against the papacy he said,

‘Staupitz encouraged me much. When he was in Rome in 1511 he heard the prophecy publicly proclaimed: “An Eremite (the Augustinians were called Eremties) shall arise and spoil the papacy!” A certain Franciscan at Rome had seen this in a vision.’ (TT p.9)

On the power of the Scriptures
‘The word of God is free, and will not be confined by human decrees.’ (p.86)

On the inability of good works
‘Works never bring peace to the conscience.’ (p.126)

On Justification
‘Prior to that time I dreaded and hated the Psalms and other parts of Scripture whenever they mentioned the ‘righteousness of God’, by which I understood that He Himself is righteous and judged us according to our sins, not that He accepted us and made us righteous. All Scripture stood as a wall, until I was enlivened by the words: ‘the just shall live by faith.’ From this I learned that the righteousness of God is faith in the mercy of God, by which He Himself justifies us through grace.’ (p.131)

(All references are from Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA)

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

‘Here I Stand!’ – A defining moment in world History

 

The Papal Bull excommunicating Luther
The Papal Bull excommunicating Luther

Before Luther’s greatest moment of public clarity and integrity came an act of defiance. Following the debate with Eck in Leipzig the Pope excommunicated him.

This was publicised in a ‘Papal Bull’ (a letter or decree with the Papal Seal or, ‘bulla’) largely written by Eck and distributed throughout Germany with an additional command that Luther’s works to be burned.

Luther’s response was to burn a copy of the Bull itself, along with the books of Catholic Canon Law. This act of defiance was witnessed by an excited crowd of Wittenberg residents and many students who sang praises to God as the papers burned.

Eck, the Bull and a Diet of Worms!
The various names and terms have a comic quality about them now but Luther was nearing the most dangerous part of his career yet. Luther was both vulnerable and heroic.

‘I will enter Worms under the banner of Christ against the gates of hell!’ Luther said.

The ‘Diet of Worms’ (or, The Imperial Assembly in the town of Worms) took place in 1521.

The famous John Eck was sent to question Luther and conclusively prove him to be a heretic.  The crowds were immense and it was with great difficulty that Luther and his team entered the hall.

A great gathering of nobles and church officials were there including the 21 year old Emperor Charles V, six electors of the empire, 24 dukes, 8 margraves, 30 archbishops, bishops and abbotts, 7 ambassadors, papal nuncios etc.  All in all 206 of the leading political and religious figures of the day.  It was an intimidating sight.

To Luther’s surprise, there was no debate but simply a command for him to repent of the things he had written, to recant. Eck asked Luther to acknowledge that the books piled on the tables were his. Luther said yes.

Eck then asked him to withdraw and reject the teaching that the books contained.  Sensing the gravity of the situation, Luther asked for time to reflect on the question in order that he might act wisely and in accordance with God’s word.  The meeting was adjourned till the following day.

Luther prayed, ‘There is no strength in me. This is Your cause, O God, not mine.  On you I rely, not on man.’

The next day when Luther was again asked to retract the doctrines he gave a speech, first in Latin then, true to form, he gave it again in German.

'Here I stand! I cannot do otherwise!'
'Here I stand! I cannot do otherwise!'

He ended with these famous words:

‘Unless I am convinced by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the word of God.

It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience.

Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.  So help me God.’

The meeting closed with the Emperor storming out and later said, ‘How can a single monk be right and the testimony of a thousand years of Christendom be wrong?’

Luther returned in safety and spent a period in hiding, but his influence – and the influence of the word of God – was felt all across Europe. He published many books and sermons and translated the Bible into German.  Churches were reformed, many preachers raised up and large numbers turned to the Lord.  A new era had begun.

Here I stand – trusting in Your Word
Here I stand – needing the intervention of God to vindicate His gospel
Here I stand – knowing that Truth cannot be suppressed forever
Here I stand – on behalf of my generation and the generations to follow
Here I stand – for the the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ
Here I stand – where else can I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life! (John 6:6)

References: The Reformation – Owen Chadwick (Pelican), Luther the Reformer – James Kittleson (IVP), Sketches from Church History – SM Houghton (Banner of Truth)

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Faith Under Fire – Luther in Leipzig

Johannes Eck - Luther's most challenging opponent
Johannes Eck - Luther's most challenging opponent

In 1519 in Leipzig a debate took place between Luther and the academic papal heavyweight, John Eck.

Eck scored a huge point by making Luther concede that he agreed with some of the teachings of the hated ‘heretic’ John Huss.

Luther: ‘Among the condemned beliefs of John Huss and his disciples, there are many which are truly Christian and evangelical and which the Catholic church cannot condemn.’ (quoted in The Reformation, Owen Chadwick, Pelican p.50)

Luther caused a sensation at this debate by declaring that the supremacy of the Pope was unknown in the Scriptures, that it was a fairly recent historical development (only 400 years old) and that the General Councils were in error by giving their support to it.  Christ, and only Christ, was the head of the Church.

Luther returned from the debate with his 200 bodyguards (loyal University students) and Melanchthon, who later succeeded him as the widely acknowledged leader of the German Reformation.

Luther enjoyed growing, and carefully thought through, political support as did other emerging Reformers in Europe.  Spiritually and politically, it was time for Europe to break free from Rome.

And Luther’s most famous trial and his most robust declaration of personal integrity was still to come…

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

On Defending the Faith – Luther in Augsburg

Luther comes under fire for his faith

The sale of Indulgences
The sale of Indulgences

Luther was initially surprised to find that he was considered a dangerous voice of rebellion against Rome. He had not intended to be. Perhaps he was naive. Perhaps he had not initially realised how far reaching his re-discovery of justification by faith actually was.

But his opponents seemed to pick up on it immediately. And so did his supporters, including the influential sovereign, Frederick, one of the Roman Empire’s electors (a member of a select and highly influential group who elected the Emperor).

The sale of indulgences were widely considered as a means of drawing of huge amounts of money from Germany to Rome. While Luther’s revulsion was theological and moral, Fredericks was also political.

What began in private study of Scripture soon led to his posting objections to indulgences on the Witenberg church door. This in turn created a very public debate.

The Pope called Luther to recant.  Luther refused.  The Pope pressurised Frederick to deliver ‘this child of the devil’ to Rome. But Frederick urged the Pope to consider academic hearings instead.

Luther appeared in Augsburg in 1518 to face the learned Cardinal Catejan. Luther was ready but nervous. He knew that Huss had gone to a similar hearing with the promise of safety, only to be arrested and killed.

Kittleson writes, ‘When he entered Augsburg on October 7, his stomach was so upset and his bowels ran so freely that he could no longer walk.’ (Luther the Reformer, Kittleson p.121)

Catejan’s objective was simply to get Luther to recant and promise not to upset the peace of the church. The debate lasted several days and ended in Catejan shouting at Luther to get out and only appear before him when he was ready to recant! Luther had escaped.

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Advice to Preachers from Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his classic, ‘Preachers and Preaching’ (Zondervan), gives refreshing and brilliant advice to preachers on just about every aspect of preaching.

Some might be surprised to learn that he also advises about knowing your own temperament, time management (so you don’t ‘fritter away the morning’), what to read and even comments on the pleasure of enjoying good music.

Of course Lloyd-Jones wasn’t the first great preacher to instruct others about the act of preaching. The greatest of the English speaking preachers, CH Spurgeon had done so at the end of the 19th Century (‘Lectures to my Students on the Art of Preaching’, Christian Focus). And before him, Martin Luther himself had given advice.

Here are a few incisive comments from the great Reformer which will help and challenge every public speaker.

On long Sermons
‘To me a long sermon is an abomination, for the desire of the audience to listen is destroyed, and the preacher only defeats himself.’ (p.188 )

‘Every priest must have his private sacrifices. Therefore Bugenhagen  sacrifices his hearers with his long sermons, for we are his victims. He did it finely today!’ [Bugenhagen was the parish priest of Wittenberg, Luther’s home town] (p.193)

How to be a good preacher

‘A preacher should have the following qualifications:
1. An ability to teach
2. A good mind
3. Eloquence
4. A good voice
5. A good memory
6. Power to leave off!
7. Diligence
8.Whole-souled devotion to his calling
9. A willingness to be bothered by everyone
10. Patience to bear all things.
In ministers nothing is seen more easily or more quickly than their faults. A preacher may have a hundred virtues, yet they may all be obscured by a single defect.’ (p.189-190)

On Sturdiness!
‘Melancthon is lighter than I and therefore more easily moved if things don’t go his way. I am heavier and stupider and am not so much affected by things I cannot remedy.’ (p.200)

On Dieting and Hygiene
‘It is true that good diet is the best medicine for anyone who can stand it, but to live hygienically is to live miserably!’ (p. 235)
Page references refer to Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA. The headings have been added.

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Laughing with Luther – quips and comments from the supper table

Martin_Luther

In this post we go inside Martin Luther’s house, into his home and we take our seats around his table and listen in on the conversation.

As students and friends were invited by the ever-hospitable Luthers to eat with them, some wrote down some of the things that Martin said. These various sayings were collected and are now usually published under the title of  Table Talk.

Here are a few examples.

On ‘Life Cycles’
‘My boy Hans is now entering his seventh year. Every seven years a person changes; the first period is infancy, the second childhood. At fourteen they begin to see the world and lay the foundations of education, at twenty one the young men seek marriage, at twenty eight they are householders and patres-familias, at thirty five they are magistrates in church and state, until forty two when they are kings. After that the senses begin to decline. Thus every seven years brings a new condition in body and character, as has happened to me and to us all.’ (p.43)

On Husbands and Wives
‘A good woman deserves a good husband. To have peace and love in marriage is a gift which is next to the knowledge of the gospel. [Turning to his wife:] Katie, you have a good husband who loves you. Let another be Empress, but you give thanks to God!’ (p.46)

‘God first created a single man, which was a good idea! Then he created woman, and therewith the trouble began! And so the monks, acquiescing with God’s first plan, live without wives, for they are wiser than God!’ (p.152)

On investing in your Children’s education
‘The best thing that ever came out of my father’s property is that he brought me up. No money is ever better spent than in education.’ (p.229)

On badly written worship songs
‘How does it happen that with reference to secular things we have so many a fine poem and so many a beautiful song, while for spiritual edification we have such wretched, cold things?’ (p.100)

On being willing to admit the Pope to church membership
‘If the Pope will throw away his crown and descend from his throne and primacy, and confess that he has erred, has destroyed the church and poured out innocent blood, then we will receive him into the church.’

This sample of sayings are from Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA. The headings have been added.

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Luther Nails Corruption to the Church Door

Martin Luther

Perhaps one of the clearest manifestations of the scandal of the religion of 16th Century Europe, both in its exploitation of the poor and in its greed for money, was the sale of ‘Indulgences’

Luther became increasingly angry at the corruption of the church, especially when Johann Tetzel appeared in Wittenburg in 1517 selling indulgences to the poor.

An indulgence, a certificate of forgiveness allegedly signed by the pope, was supposed to release souls from ‘purgatory’. Purgatory itself is a non-Scriptural idea of an intermediary hell in which believers are to be purified from sin by hellish flames. The Indulgences were supposed to release a nominated dead person. But they were expensive.

Tetzel was a Monk from Leipzig and was raising funds for the re-building of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

He was something of an orator and stirred up the crowds with descriptions of how their beloved parents, or infant children, were now suffering in the torments of purgatory.  ‘Do you not hear the voices of your dead relatives crying out to you and saying, ‘Pity us! Pity us! For we are in dire punishment and torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance? And you will not?’ (quoted in Luther the Reformer, Kittleson, IVP p.103)

His catch phrase was an outrage: ‘The moment the money tinkles in my box, that moment the soul springs up out of purgatory.’  Luther called this ‘the pious defrauding of the faithful.’ (ibid p.104)

These expensive ‘Indulgences’ sold well, including to some wealthier persons who, applying logic to the opportunity, purchased them in advance of sins they desired to commit.

Luther could stand it no more and on 31st October 1517 he nailed his now famous ‘95 theses’, which dealt bravely and powerfully with many abuses, to the door of the Wittenberg church.

Here’s a couple, which reflect both Luther’s outrage as well as the feelings of the people:
66.  The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.
86.  Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

The following day (All Saints Day) brought multitudes to the church.  Luther’s denunciations were read, copied, printed and soon distributed all over Germany and before long, all over Europe.

The Reformation had begun.

For more on Martin Luther’s remarkable story (tags) click here

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Luther wrestles with God – Through Anger, Guilt, Revelation and Forgiveness

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach
Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach

When Luther returned to Wittenberg disappointed with his visit to Rome. He began teaching and expounding the Scriptures and his thirst for truth intensified.

He writes:
‘I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans.  I did not have a heart of stone, but to that moment one phrase in chapter one stood in my way.

I hated the idea, ‘in it the righteousness of God is revealed’ …according to which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

I lived without reproach as a monk, but my conscience was disturbed to its very depths and all I knew about myself was that I was a sinner.

I could not believe that anything I thought or did or prayed satisfied God.  I did not love, nay, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.

Certainly, and with intense grumbling (perhaps even blasphemy), I was angry with God and said, ‘As if it were indeed not enough that miserable sinners who are eternally lost through original sin and are crushed again by every calamity through the Ten Commandments, God Himself adds pain to pain in the gospel by threatening us with His righteousness and wrath!’

At last, meditating day and night…by the mercy of God, I gave heed to the context of the words, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’

Then I began to understand that the righteousness of God is…a gift of God, namely by faith…

Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

An entirely new side of the Scriptures opened itself to me…and I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the loathing with which before I had hated the term ‘the righteousness of God’.

Thus, that verse in Paul was for me truly the gate of paradise.’ [1]

Luther wrestled with God! Next time we’ll see how he wrestled his generation and began a reform movement that took on the world!

1. Luther’s Works, Vol 34, p.336-338 Fortress Press,and quoted in Luther, the Reformer by James M. Kittleson, (1989 Leicester: IVP)

For the next part of the Martin Luther story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Dear Medieval world – meet Martin Luther

luther
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born to a poor family in Eisleben, Saxony, Germany.

He was a bright scholar and entered the University of Erfurt when he was eighteen.  While there, for the first time he saw a Bible and was greatly challenged by the passage in which Samuel was called to be a prophet to Israel.

It wasn’t, however, until he was 22 and had left his studies that he began seeking God.  A combination of traumatic events (including nearly being struck by lightning) culminated in his promising to become a monk which, after a rollicking farewell party to the world, he did.

As a monk he was very diligent, following the strictest rules and trying to make peace with God.  He appealed earnestly to every saint he could think of for help including Mary, but no help came.

Once for a whole fortnight he didn’t eat or sleep.  He was desperate to find peace and yet held under a terrifying expectation of God’s righteous anger against him.

In 1510 he had the rare privilege of visiting Rome.  He had high expectations but was utterly shocked at the lawlessness he saw there.  Nevertheless he said many masses and visited many churches.

Of this trip he says:

‘At Rome I wished to liberate my grandfather from purgatory, and went up the staircase of Pilate, praying a pater noster on each step; for I was convinced that he who prayed thus could redeem his soul.  But when I came to the top step, the thought kept coming to me, ‘Who knows whether this is true?’’ (S.M. Houghton – Sketches from Church History (Banner of Truth) p.84)

Next time we’ll see what happened when Luther began reading and preaching from Erasmus’ recently published Greek New Testament.

For the next part of Luther’s story click here

© 2008 Lex Loizides

Sarcasm and Scholarship – How to Start a Reformation

Erasmus


Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

Along with Savanorola of Florence, the Dutchman Erasmus, from Rotterdam, was one of the shining lights of the Renaissance. The Renaissance (from the French – ‘re-birth’), was a movement seeking to throw off the ignorance produced in large measure by the exclusivity of the clergy, and which drew inspiration from classical literature and art for inspiration.

Erasmus attended several of the universities of Western Europe including Oxford where he began to turn his attention to Biblical studies.

He made two important contributions to the Reformation. Firstly, he wrote extensively against the corruption and abuses by both priests and monks (e.g., his book ‘In Praise of Folly’).  His style was sarcastic, witty, dismissive. His was a daring, sharp and hugely popular way of pointing out the tragic failings of the Mediaeval church, although he never left the Catholic Church and hoped for an internal reformation.

But in his criticisms he was aiming for genuine devotion:
‘No veneration of Mary is more beautiful than the imitation of her humility. No devotion to the saints is more acceptable to God than the imitations on their virtues.

Say you have a great devotion to St Peter and St Paul. Then by all means imitate the faith of the former and the charity of the latter. This will certainly be more rewarding than a dozen trips to Rome.’ (Quoted in The Protestant Reformation of Europe, Andrew Johnston, Longman, UK)

The Greek New Testament in print

Erasmus' Greek and Latin Parallel New Testament

Secondly, he edited and published the first printed Greek New Testament in 1516. The New Testament immediately drew attention to the obvious differences of the state of the Roman Church and the church in the Scriptures themselves.

The doctrines of Grace, hardly anywhere to be seen in Erasmus’ pre-Reformation Church, were everywhere in the Scriptures, and the nature and practices of the early church made the differences all the more obvious.  It was now just a matter of time.

Erasmus opened the door for the clear testimony of truth to impact both church and society. When his critics complained that he had laid the egg that Luther hatched, Erasmus defended himself with good humour, saying that he had expected a different kind of bird to emerge!

NB. A point of interest: Andrew Johnston is not only the author of The Protestant Reformation of Europe but now pastors a church in the UK

© 2008 Lex Loizides