A Few Quotes from Martin Luther

I have been doing some background reading for the October sermon series embracing the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The following quotes come from Gerhard Ebeling’s book, “Luther: An Introduction to His Thought” and I share them here for your consideration and my remembrance.67500

“The time for silence is over, and the time for speech has come.” Opening line of the dedication, “Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation“, 1520.

“I must always drum and hammer and force and drive in this distinction between the two kingdoms, even if it is written and spoken so often that it  becomes tiresome. For the Devil himself never ceases cooking and brewing up the two Kingdoms together. The secular authorities always seek, in the name of the Devil, to teach and instruct Christ how he should conduct his Church and his spiritual rule. Similarly, the false priests and sectaries, not in the name of God, always seek to teach and instruct people how they should conduct secular rule. Thus the Devil is unrestrained on either side and has much to do. May God defend us from him, amen, if we are worthy of it.”

“…from the beginning of the world a clever prince is a very rare bird, and a devout prince rarer still. They are usually the biggest fools or the wickedest fellows on earth, so that one is always well provided with mischief from them and can expect little good of them, especially in godly matters which concern the salvation of souls….If a prince happens to be clever, devout or a Christian, this a great miracle and a most precious sign of God’s grace upon his country.”

“We must be clear that we are not dealing permanently with men in this matter, but with the prices of hell who would fill the world with war and bloodshed, and yet avoid letting themselves be caught by the flood. We must go to work now, not depending on physical power, but in humble trust in God, seeking help from Him in earnest prayer…Otherwise our efforts may well begin with good prospects, but, when we get deeply involved, the evil spirit will cause such confusions as to make the whole world swim in blood, and then nothing will be accomplished. Therefore, in this matter let us act wisely, and as those who fear God. The greater the power we employ, the greater the disaster we suffer, unless we act humbly and in the fear of God.”

“Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, ‘Peace, peace’, where there is no peace. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, ‘The cross, the cross’, where there is no cross. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells; and let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.”

“It is not the way of a Christian heart to fail to delight in decisive assertions: rather, one must delight in them, or one is not a Christian…Nothing is better known and more familiar to a Christian than decisive assertion. Do away with decisive assertions, and you have taken away Christianity…The Holy Spirit is not a sceptic and has not written doubtful matters and mere opinions in our hearts, but decisive assertions which are more certain and sure than life itself and all experience.”

“Consequently, the utmost care and consideration must be given to true doctrine, contrary to what conventional opinion holds. For doctrine belongs to God, and life to us – if doctrine is corrupt, everything becomes corrupt. If it is sound, everything is in order.”

“What we have to do is to take care that we do not abandon the gospel with which we have come forward to the mockery of the godless, and do not give our opponents any opportunity to triumph over us, as though we did not dare stand up for what we have taught, and were afraid to shed our blood for the gospel. May Christ in his mercy protect us from cowardice on our own part and such boasting on their part.”

“I am already sufficiently burdened with sins; I will not draw upon myself this further mortal sin of neglecting the post in which I have been placed, so that I am found guilty of a criminal silence, and the neglect of the truth and of so many thousand souls. It is hard to stand opposed to all the bishops and princes, but there is no other way to escape hell and the anger of God.”

“In what concerned the gospel, the outward authority of the secular arm was not only incapable of bringing about anything positive, but was not even able to afford any protection. ‘This I have written to Your Grace with the intention that Your Grace should know that I am coming to Wittenburg under the protection of one much higher than the Elector. Nor have I any thought of seeking protection from Your Grace. In fact I consider I could better protect Your Grace than you can protect me. Moreover, if I knew that Your Grace could and would protect me, I would not come. This is a matter in which the sword cannot give counsel or help; God must act alone in it, without any human striving or intervention. Consequently, whoever believes moms, is best able to afford protection.”

“As often as God’s word is preached, it creates a joyful, open and assured conscience before God; for it is the word of grace, and forgiveness, a good and beneficent word. But as often as man’s word is preached, it creates a troubled, cramped and fearful conscience within man, for it is the word of the law, of anger and of sin, and shows what we have failed to do and how much we have to do.”






So, What Are You Reading Lately?

A pair of recent conversations and a few memorable exchanges (one even included the surprise gift of a couple of books my friend had been reading!) have cemented for me the lasting impact and import of this simple, but sticky, question, “What are you reading lately?” It is a question which I routinely ask people in the course of conversation and it has led to numerous worthy recommendations for future reading as well as untold conversations full of fascination and information. However, it has also elicited the always startling response of, “I don’t read much.”

The numbers are in, and it does not look good. In fact, it appears that we may be on the verge of a self-inflicted age of “literate illiteracy.” While we are busily catching up on the latest Facebook gossip, or attempting to squeeze that 160 character quote down to 140 characters, our ability, and even our desire, to attend to something more complex than the latest clever meme making the rounds has alarmingly atrophied. As one New York Times writer opined in January of this year, “[According to a Canadian media study conducted by Microsoft] we now have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish.”  According to recent Pew Research 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book in the last year and, worse still, 1 in 3 American men have not picked up a book in the last 12 months! The numbers sink even further for those with low incomes and no college education.

Reading is a gift which allows me to freely converse with ancients like Augustine and Isaiah. Through this marvelous facility I am able to pick the brains of brilliant and not-so-brilliant thinkers of our age like Hawking, Wright, or Dawkins (I will leave it to you to discern the brilliant/not-so-brilliant divide). Because of reading I have travelled to real places I will never put my feet, like the summit of Mt. Everest with Jon Krakauer or the South Pole with Sir Ernest Shackleton. Additionally, I have wandered the fantastical paths of Middle-earth and Narnia and crossed galaxies with Asimov and Herbert. The potential poverty of my life without reading is staggering to consider.

So, to the question again, “What are you reading lately?” I would truly like to know. Give me your best and most recent reads. Let’s share the love of great stories and the pursuit of worthy thought with one another.

In the spirit of transparency, I offer you my current reading stack:

The Nathaniel Drinkwater series by Richard Woodman. This series of nautical adventures is more robust that Horatio Hornblower and not so esoteric as Jack Aubrey. If you need to spend some time on the high seas, Nathaniel Drinkwater is a fine companion.

The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton. I am reading everything by Chesterton I can locate. He is eminently quotable and has a pithy wit. He would have an immediate affinity and command of social media were he living today.

The Collected Poetry of Robert Frost. His voice continues to stir something good, and pure, and simple, and profound in me. I commend a “Walk Through Snowy Woods” as you peer down “The Road Not Taken” and perhaps consider the business of “Mending Wall” with Mr. Frost.

Enduring Salvation: A collection of sermons delivered by Dr. Paul Vernon Bomar. Dr. Bomar served Siloam (the church I pastor) at the turn of the century from the 1800’s to the 1900’s. The opening line of the introduction is the following endearing quote from Dr. Bomar, “People ought to have religion enough to attend church regularly and sense enough to stay home in bad weather.” The sermons did not disappoint and challenge me to carry on the good work that others have done here before me.

How about you? What are you reading lately?