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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Luther for the Armchair Theologian - Chapter 6

What Theology Is About: I, the Sinner; God, the Justifier

“One doesn't do theology in an armchair... One SUFFERS, is done unto—then theology, good or bad, will come out... Everybody has a 'philosophy of life' and is more than willing to unload when someone is listening. How will you ever decide whether you should really have been a Buddhist, or if Scientology is really more your thing? If Protestants or Roman Catholics are better off on the last day? If you should really be an atheist or create your own religion. But Luther's Theology doesn't start in the typical way...” (pp. 91-2)

Trust: An Involuntary Reaction
“Trust is not a light switch that you can turn on or off. You do not decide one day to trust someone or something... Like it or not, you are thrown into the world without asking to be born and have to place your trust somewhere." (p. 94)

Thus, we are never for a moment untrusting souls dispassionately seeking someone worthy of our trust. Rather, we are always trusting somebody or something from the moment we come into existence. The only question ever is “what?” or “who?”

“Luther understood from his own experience that God is dead set on revealing your trust to you. When God's preacher reveals a person it is unsettling, especially for people who are used to looking at their reflection in the pond like Narcissus and falling in love. Not only are humans “trusters” by nature, but they are terrible judges of charactor and frightened into putting their trust into the wrong people, places, and things. We are like bad serial daters, looking for love but falling for the wrong kind of man or woman, suckers for what looks slick and whoever heaps us with false praise.” (p. 95)

Hope, not Love — Waiting, not Striving
Augustine said, “Love changes the lover into the beloved.”

Luther changed this to, “What is hoped for and the hoping person become one through tense hoping.”

“Where Augustine says ‘love’ Luther says ‘hope’... This switches directions from what aims at to what one waits for in hope. The lover pursues; the hoper waits. In whom do you trust? Trust does not come out of thin air but depend on the word of promise that break in and change the normal course of events. Trust depends on another to arrive.” (p. 99-100)

Thus, you do not become a theologian by dispassionate study and deciding who to trust. you become a theologian by God revealing your false trust to you and placing you into a posture of waiting and hoping while clinging to nothing but His promise.

As my dear college mentor, Professor Charles Froelich, had us memorize:

Vivendo, immo moriendo, damnando fit theologus, non intellelgendo, legendo, aut speculando.

Translated: “By living, dying, [and] being condemned a theologian is made; not by understanding, reading or speculating.”

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