#Luther #ReformationDay

Martin Luther was incognito as a knight, named Sir George, on his way back to Wittenberg University from the Wartburg Castle. He stopped in the Black Bear Inn for dinner.

Two Swiss students had dinner with Luther, not knowing it was him. At one of the tables sat a man alone dressed as a knight. He wore a red cap, “man capris” pants, and a short, snug-fitted jacket; his right hand rested on the pommel (top) of his sword, his left grasped the handle. His eyes were fixed reading the book opened on the table, but at the entrance of these two young men, he raised his head, waved to them warmly, and invited them to come and sit at his table; then, presenting them with a glass of beer and noticing their accent, they began a conversation. The two students mentioned that they were determined to study under the great Martin Luther.

How did Luther end up dressed as a knight in 1522?

Five years Earlier (1517) the Indulgence Controversy Erupted

It was not over food & beer, but over Pope Leo X’s financial problem, having exhausted the Church’s money in wars and in the massive building project of St. Peter’s and the Vatican.

Indulgences were certificates sold by the church that guaranteed the purchaser, or the designated beneficiary, relief from a stipulated period of time in purgatory.

The sale of indulgences was entrusted to a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, a profane man and a brilliant salesman, who used jingles (according to Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses) such as the gem: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs,” and made the assertion that even if one had raped the Virgin Mary, one of his indulgences would be sufficient to cover the sin.

Luther preached against indulgences, but the standard academic protocol for announcing a debate was to nail to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg theses. Luther nailed his 95 theses against the practice of selling indulgences. (The printing press published it & hit the Church’s revenue dept even harder!)

The Diet of Worms 1521

The church had now exhausted its options for handling Luther. Excommunication was the final sanction – April 1521 – excom-munication meant that Luther was a nonperson. Thus, in April 1521, Luther arrived in Worms to face his greatest challenge so far. Here, at age 38, Luther stood before Charles V and said:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”

As he left Worms to return to Wittenberg, he was surrounded by a group of armed men and kidnapped. (After nearly four years as the center of attention for both church and empire, Luther would vanish from the public eye for the better part of a year.)

1521 Sir George, the resident knight of the Wartburg Castle

Luther spent the rest of 1521 incognito on a mountain over the town of Eisenach, translating the New Testament into German. He would sneak into town occasionally to meet Philip Melanchthon for dinner. He said:

“All I have done is to put forth, preach and write the Word of God, and apart from this I have done nothing. While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with Philip…the Word has done great things. I have done nothing; the Word has done and achieved everything.”


God’s Power in Human Weakness

In Genius & Grace, Dr. Gaius Davis records how 9 heroic Christian leaders manifested God’s grace in spite of painful handicaps. Leaders such as Luther, Bunyan, Cowper, CS Lewis, and Amy Carmichael, Davis argues, suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorders like anxiety, depression, guilt, darkness, & doubt.

Davis’ thesis can be summarized in two convictions; namely, that:

One, grace doesn’t change our personality or temperament. (If you were an extrovert before conversion, then you will be an extrovert after. You’ll be easier to live with. If an introvert before, then an introvert after. It will be easier to live with yourself.) And . . .

Two, grace doesn’t render us immune to physical or mental illness. (Conversion does not remove because they show that God’s grace is sufficient for us in them.)

This month Christians remember the Protestant Reformation 500 years later. I have been assigned to teach on Luther, Calvin, and Knox both at my local church and at a nearby seminary. As i do i remember 2 Corinthians 4:7: We have this treasure (the Gospel) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Why did God make Beautiful Things? #Calvin

“Why did God make you and all things?” we asked our little, adorable grandson. He replied, “For His own gwory.” By the word gwory he actually meant glory. When  we behold God’s beautiful handiwork with joy and awe, God is glorified in us.

John Calvin noticed utilitarianism’s bad effects 500 years ago; namely, treating creation only as something useful for us without regard for how beautiful it is – without reference to how beautiful God must be. God created all things that we may not only see beauty, but also to savor it with reference to God’s glory and attributes (Romans 1:20-ish). We were meant to participate in the life of God everywhere and all the time, especially when we gaze at the beauty of creation or Christ in the scriptures (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6).

Creation is beautiful to behold and to enjoy, and God is glorified when we are happy beholding and enjoying the beauty He reveals to us in what He has made.

The Fundamental Question

Below Calvin waxes eloquently about how dreadful a utilitarian view of creation truly is. Calvin asks the fundamental question about God’s purpose behind creating beautiful life forms for our pleasure in God: “Did [God] not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use?”

“In grasses, trees, and fruits, apart from their utility, there is beauty of appearance and pleasantness of odor. For if this were not true, the prophet would not have reckoned them among the benefits of God, “that wine gladdens the heart of man, that oil makes his face shine.” . . . Has the Lord clothed the flowers with great beauty that greets our eyes, the sweetness of smell that is wafted upon our nostrils, and yet will it be unlawful for our eyes to be affected by that beauty, or our sense of smell by the sweetness of that odor?

What? Did he not so distinguish colors as to make some more lovely than others? What? Did he not endow gold and silver, ivory and marble, with a loveliness that renders them more precious than other metals or stones? Did he not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use? Away, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, while conceding only a necessary use of creatures, not only malignantly deprives us of the lawful fruit of God’s beneficence but cannot be practiced unless it robs man of all his senses and degrades him to a block” (Calvin, Institutes; 3:10:2-3).

God Exceeds Our Expectations & Thoughts

“However many blessings we expect from God, his infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.” Indeed, “it is no small honor that God for our sake has so magnificently adorned the world, in order that we may not only be spectators of this beauteous theatre, but also enjoy the multiplied abundance and variety of good things which are presented to us in it.”

We are more than spectators.

Calvin, quoted in Howard L. Rice, Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991), 59, emphasis added.