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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 4

The Simple Sense of Scripture: Letter and Spirit

As long as you are still laboring under the notion that religion is about progressing toward God, it remains impossible to take the Scripture in its simple and plain sense. This is the reason why so many Christians find it necessary to “interpret” Scripture. In this way, Scriptures can be wrested from God’s use to our own use and the reader remains at the mercy of our “interpretation” while we are never in any real danger of being challenged, chastened of changed.

But when we simply let the words of the Scripture stand as they are, we no longer are “interpreting” God’s Word. Rather, God’s Word is interpreting us. He is measuring us, not we Him. He is creating us in His image—not we creating Him in our own image.

In short, Luther’s slogan sola Scriptura, is simply the natural outflow of letting God alone be the Creator while we remain always His creatures. As Steven Paulson puts it:

Luther set about to rid the church of its long-standing form of Gnosticism that has tried to be rid of the Old Testament by turning Scripture’s “law” into something old and Jewish and “gospel” into nothing but better laws. That false step tried to make Christ into a better Moses than the Jews had. It made the church a superior form of the Jewish synagogue. It put final church authority in the papal office instead of in Scripture alone. It put laws where the gospel belonged, and its effect was to bury Jesus Christ under self-righteous motives to keep every Christians from becoming immoral. To the contrary, Luther came to assert that Scripture was not hiding mysteries, nor was the church improving on Moses’ laws.

Luther for the Armchair Theologian, pp. 65-66

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