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Friday, June 4, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Introduction

Beginning this Sunday, June 6, and continuing through the next twelve Sundays, we will be blogging through the above-mentioned paperback by Steven Paulson. To purchase a copy from Amazon.com and follow along, simply click on the title of this post.

By way of introduction to Luther’s thought, let us first state for the record that Luther was not concerned about the freedom of the individual conscience. Contrary to popular notions, the Reformation was not about “freedom from the shackles of Roman Tyranny.”

Rather, the Reformation was about the Word of God and the Word of God alone.  But don’t take my word for it, let Luther say it for himself. “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason... I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God” (p. 3).

For Luther, Christianity is not about some absolute freedom and autonomy. Rather, it is about being freed from Satan and made servants of the true God (Luke 10:20-22). And this freedom from Satan means freedom from his lies while service to God means subjection to His Word – in which is true freedom (John 8:36).

This is why Luther’s initial struggle against Rome’s distortions of, and additions to, the Bible quickly turned into a battle on two fronts. Already five years into the Reformation, Luther was forced to oppose other so-called reformers for the same reason that he opposed the Roman errors. These “fellow reformers” seized upon Luther’s Reformation as a chance to throw off the shackles of Rome but they never understood that our true bondage was not a bondage to any human institution but to Satan’s lies–lies which we are all too ready to believe. Rejecting the laws which Rome had dreamed up apart from the Scriptures, they simply replaced them with their own laws which they themselves dreamed up apart from the Scriptures.

Freedom from Satan will never be accomplished by our own works whether those works are seeking out personal holiness or social justice. The “social gospel” is just as enslaving as the “gospel of works.”

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