Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Modern Hatred of Luther

It is nearly ubiquitous. Scarcely a day goes by where I am not forced to endure some college lecture where Martin Luther is not only scoffed at (in the most infantile theological ignorance), but literally maligned and mis-represented. I would dare say (and this is much thanks to the idle scholarship of the NPP folk, who should-with the exception of Dunn- be disbarred from all universities and sent back to school) that he has become a bit of a scapegoat for all of our theological problems. Anti-nomianism in your church? Forget John Agricola, lets blame it on Luther! Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany? Forget about John Eck or Wagner or the medieval superstitions centering around the bubonic plague.....it's Luther's fault! Individualism in the West? Lets not mention that Luther damned mysticism and solitude and ardently demanded the gathering and fellowship of Christians....lets not mention it because we are ignorant of it....lets blame the individualistic, self-absorbed conscience of the west on Luther! And by all means, the under-appreciation of James is most certainly Luther's fault (as opposed to Eusebius and the vast majority of church fathers before him who neglected to place it in the canon). And so on and so forth...
I think this hatred of Luther is un-qualified for two reasons.
First of all, those who criticize Luther usually end up admitting that they have read very little of him. This simply will not do. Irenaeus in the 2nd century censured the weakness of earlier Christian polemics against the gnostic movement, which did not consider it a necessity to read gnostic literature. A more modern example in contradistinction to this behavior would be Karl Barth, who frequently held colloquium's, lecture courses and summer reading classes on Schleiermacher...for the express purpose of studying him! In his preface to Protestant Theology in the 19th Century, one of the chief reasons that Barth listed for publishing the work was the snide attitudes of his students, who refused to acknowledge the genuine value of the contributions made by theologians who lived in the period before them.
Secondly, but very much in line with the content of the first, Luther's contribution to the theological sphere and the church was Justification through Faith in Christ, Alone. That little word "Alone" stands over and against a whole aeon of-literally miserable- works-righteousness, uncertainty before God, lack of joy, and the exultation of human traditions and orders as a means for acquiring grace. Forget about determining whether the ST Jews were pelagian.....the Catholic church materially WAS.
The fact that modern sophists and dillettantes haven't a smack of gratitude for Luther's teaching on the eternal liberation wrought by faith in Christ, apart from all works....tells me that they consider the preciousness of this truth to be a mere trifle. But when Paul brought the message of justification by faith apart from works to the Galatians, they thought they were visited by God Himself! They were so overjoyed at Paul they could have torn out their eyes for him.
The fact of the matter is, if we persist in this ingratitude God may very well strip Luther's or Paul's teaching from us entirely. We may lose the message of faith in Christ entirely and be delivered over to works-righteousness. I already see the latter glorified in not a few self-styled evangelical writers and teachers, to the effect that one might find more consolation in Tridentine Catholicism than in their wretched, miserable and abominable representations of the Christian message. The devil can speak against the gospel through the lips of those teachers called of Christ, as he did twice through Peter. Protestantism may abandon its birthright under the wrath of God and have to be told a thing about grace and faith from catholicism, or from another sector altogether.

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