Martin Luther - Lesson 5
The Task of Theology
Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.
The Task of Theology
I. A theology that gets at the meat of the nut.
A. Monasticism, Scholasticism and Humanism
B. Finding the way out
II. A theology that consists in comments on Scripture.
A. Lectures on the Psalms
B. Lectures on Romans
III. A theology that is distinct from philosophy.
A. Disputation against scholastic theology, 1517, before 95 Theses
B. Heidelberg Disputation, 1518
IV. A theology forged in the crucible of pastoral care.
A. 95 Theses, 1517
B. 8 Sermons of 1522
IV. A theology of the knowledge of God and man.
- Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.
Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.
When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.
Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.
Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.
The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.
Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).
Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.
Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.
Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.
Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.
Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.
The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.
Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.
Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.
The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.
Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.
Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.
Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.
This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Dr. Gordon Isaac
The Task of Theology
[00:00:02] Let's get underway with a little selection out of Luther's works in his commentary on Psalm 51, written in 1532. He makes comment on Psalm 51 one. Which reads in the following way Have mercy on me or God according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. David is talking to the God of his father's, the God who promised. The people of Israel did not have a God who was viewed. Absolutely. Human weakness cannot help being crushed by the majesty of the absolute God. As Scripture reminds us over and over, let no one therefore interpret David as speaking with the absolute God. He is speaking with God as he is dressed and clothed in his Word and promises so that from the name God we cannot exclude Christ, whom God promised to Adam and the other patriarchs. We must take hold of this God. Not naked, but clothed and revealed in his word. Otherwise certain despair will crush us. This distinction must always be made between the prophets who speak with God and the pagans. Pagans speak with God outside his Word and promises according to the thoughts of their own hearts. But the prophets speak with God as He is closed and revealed in his promises and Word. This God clothed in such a kind appearance and dressed in his promises. This God we can grasp and look at with joy and trust. The absolute God, on the other hand, is like an iron wall against which we cannot bump without destroying ourselves. Therefore, Satan is busy day and night, making us run to the naked God so that we can forget his promises and blessings shown in Christ and think about God and the judgment of God.
[00:02:26] But David speaks with the God of his father's, with the God whose promises he knows and whose mercy and grace he has felt. He could depend on God's promises as he prayed because the promises include Christ, Let's pass for prayer. Almighty God, our dear Heavenly Father. We thank you that you have clothed yourselves and that you have closed yourself in word and promise. We pray that you would help us in our thinking not to clamor after the absolute God. You and your naked power, but rather. Help us to seek after you as you have revealed yourself to us. In the person and work of Jesus Christ. Spoken of by prophets. Written about by apostles and confessed. By the church. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen. Okay. Last time we left off talking about the 95 theses. Today, we're going to talk just a bit about the task of theology. In in one of our concluding comments about the 95 theses, one of the things we said is that Luther takes off writing these theses and he's he has in his sights concern about abuses in the church and begins to delineate those particularly as they relate to indulgences. He moves from understanding grace as being the opening up of the treasury of merits and instead begins to talk about grace in terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So in the 95 theses, he's working with a set of concepts faith, grace, justification and issues that relate to the laity. And one of the things that we said toward the end of our time was that underneath his 95 theses. There is a new theology emerging. There's a new theology at work pressing him ever forward to articulate what is the nature of grace, what the nature of the gospel is.
[00:04:59] Now, today we want to talk just a little bit about the task of theology. And we want to do so in this particular form that this this is there are any number of ways that one could articulate the task of theology and Luther. But this is the direction that we're going to be heading in today. One of the there's a very interesting letter extant from Luther early on in his career, and it comes from 1509 March 17th, 1509. And in this particular letter, he gives his personal attitude toward the process of his study. And you remember that he entered the cloister in 1505. He's been there for four years and he's been in the process of study. One of the things the Augustinians are known for, renowned for is the process through which they send their their members. And as a part of Luther's task, he was to be a teacher in theology in the biblical books. But also he had to make comments on Aristotle's ethics. And so he was preparing for all of this. And the study, he said, was rather difficult. That's impressive. Anyway, in March 17th, 1509, he sends a letter to his friend, a nice knock priest by the name of Yohannes Brown, and he says in this letter, this. From the outset, I would most rather have exchanged philosophy for theology. I mean, for a theology that gets at the meat of the nut, at the kernel of the corn or the marrow of the bones, but God is God, man is often, in fact, is always fallible in judgment. This is our God. He will always lead us in kindness. Now, I notice in this letter that he's writing to his friend, he says from the outset, and here it would seem that Luther, reflecting on his own preparation for his teaching ministry, is concerned that he has been engaged in deed.
[00:07:30] He has been forced to be engaged in a line of study which he has not found altogether pleasing or happy. From the outset. Luther is concerned and he is wrestling and he is struggling with the topics that he has to master getting a handle on and finally master so that he in turn can teach. And he he's not at all happy with what he's finding there. He's restless. There's a mind at work here, and he is struggling to break through to the kind of theology that gets at the meat of the nut. Now, he is probably concerned that. His philosophical studies, while interesting in their own way, do not get at the theological task. So at the very beginning of Luther's career, we see that Luther is beginning to make a distinction between theology and philosophy. He wants a theology that is really going to deal with human need and with the care of the parish. One thing that we can say is that in his struggle with the 95 theses, he was dealing with individuals from his parish that were going across the river to buy these letters of indulgences. And he saw the deleterious effect that this had on their spiritual life. And he says theology must be more than a description of how many years off you can get in purgatory. So he wants to get into theology. He wants a theology that gets at the meat of the nut. Now, this brings them to an assessment of the relationship between philosophy and theology. And in his epistle to the Romans, we find another selection in Luther's writings where he says this. I certainly believe that I owe it as a matter of obedience to the Lord to bark against philosophy and speak words of encouragement to the Holy Scripture.
[00:09:46] For if perhaps another word to do this, who was not acquainted with philosophy from his own observation. He would not have the courage to do so or would not have commanded belief. But I have worn myself out for years at this and can see quite clearly from my experience and from conversations with others that it is a vain and ruinous study. Therefore, I admonish you all so far as I am able to be done with this form of study quickly and to make it your sole business not to allow these matters to carry any weight, nor defend them, but rather to do as we do when we learn evil skills in order to render them harmless and obtain knowledge of errors in order to overcome them. Let us do the same with philosophy in order to reject it, or at least to make ourselves familiar with the mode of speech of those with whom we have to deal for. It is time for us to devote ourselves to other studies and to learn Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Well, that's a rather sharp way of putting the matter. And of course, there have been many, particularly in the Roman Catholic tradition, who have objected to this kind of sharp contrast that one finds in Luther's writings. It should be noted, however, that Luther is not against philosophy as such. For Luther Human Reason is nothing short of a divine gift. And that's something that we read in his disputation concerning man written in 1536. What Luther is trying to point out is simply this philosophy has one set of language and one set of concerns and theology has another. And if we mix the two, we lose our focus and we lose the point of the task of theology.
[00:11:47] So if there are any of you here in the room that want to go on to get a Ph.D. in philosophy and teach philosophy, please go ahead and do it in good conscience. Knowing that Luther would bless you for it, recognizing that philosophy has its own realm in which to operate. But remember that with Luther, his immediate environment is one in which philosophy and theology have been joined together in a meaningful marriage. Back in the 1200s, St Thomas Aquinas, I saw that Aristotle was all the rage and he says, You know, in order to be faithful in the church, we've got to engage Aristotle. And so Thomas and Thomas not only engaged Aristotle, but he became a grand master of Aristotelian thought forms and terminology. And in writing his summa theological cites, Aristotle second only to Saint Paul. So there's a wedding between Aristotle and the Bible in Saint Thomas Aquinas that is is really, in some ways the high watermark of Scholasticism. Luther, in his context, is dealing with Scholasticism in a more derived form and its alchemist forms. And you've read something about that in Overman. So Luther is wrestling with this issue and he is struggling to find his own voice and to discover a theology that gets at the meat of the nut. He is still finding the way out and he's not certain of all the path, you know, what direction the path is going to to go in. He's not exactly sure certain of the particular content. Finally of the theology that he will arrive at. But he does know this, that there are distinct theological issues and problems that he must wrestle with. And he is convinced that the kind of mixture of philosophy and theology that he finds on the stage in his own lifetime is not the way to go.
[00:14:10] Now, a second point here is we can say Luther is struggling in this task of theology to formulate a theology that consists in comments on scripture. And here you might be struck by this term, comments, you know, in our modern context. If you want to know about Scripture, are you going to execute the text and you're going to use all of the tools, the historical critical tools at your disposal, the languages. And we have a very strong biblical division here. There is no question about it. Gordon Conwell excels in this particular area. But one of the things that's true about the modern discussion of the interpretation of Scripture is that it focuses upon completeness. You know, you go to the library and you pull off of the shelf a commentary on a book, and that commentary discusses every single verse and, you know, sometimes more than you want them to say because you want to get through to the end. But it's a very complete sort of a process. We have a scientific way of approaching the scriptures. Do the fact that we live in scientific times. But you have to remember that in Luther's day, commenting on Scripture was a very different matter. Commenting on Scripture in the medieval context. Meant not that you are viewing using scientific rules for the interpretation of scripture, but rather you were making comment on holy writ. This was the sacred page of God. Uttered by the Holy Spirit himself. Poured upon the page through the dedication and the devotion of the monastic orders, who wrote in pen and ink on vellum. This Bible took 300 sheepskins in order to produce. The shedding of blood was a part of the process. Sweat and tears on the part of the monks.
[00:16:35] In order to place it there. This was holy writ uttered by the Holy Spirit Himself. And then in the medieval context, in order to make comment on this, this page, there was a certain cadence, as it were, as the monks went about their business, they made comment on scripture. One of the interesting things you'll find in Luther's, some of Luther's early expositions of Scripture lectures on Scripture is he doesn't comment on every verse. It's not necessary. He makes comments here and there and moves to the text of Scripture. The text is complete and whole. It's not necessary for him to say something new. His task as a theologian is not to be original as it is in the 20th century, in the 21st century. But to be faithful, faithful to the tradition. And so when Luther is developing a theology that consistent comments on Scripture, he is is talking about scripture in that sort of way now. Let's just back up for a moment and let me describe for you just a little bit about these three different schools of thought or three these three different ways of going about theology that were current during Luther's time. We've got monasticism, scholasticism and humanism. Each of these different isms has a particular way of forecasting and constructing the task of theology. And I want to give you just a brief introduction to this, of course. There's a great deal of detail that you could place under any one of these three different approaches to theology. But let me give you just a basic introduction here. Monasticism. This is an ancient discipline. The monastic orders began early in the Christian tradition and cloistered themselves and dedicated themselves to the matter of study of Holy Read the sacred page.
[00:18:52] This ancient discipline is one which is. Focused on the text of Scripture. Now, if you want to talk about a place that this theology is carried out, you'd have to say it's carried out in the monastery. It's the monastery, which was the center where the holy Scripture was esteemed, studied, copied and applied to worship. It's not simply that the Holy Scripture was painstakingly transcribed in the script Torah of a thousand different monasteries. It is that the monks daily lives were ordered and marked out by the Holy Scriptures in the context of the daily liturgy. The first words spoken and the last prayer prayed were echoes of the vocabulary and the intent of Scripture. Holy writ from Genesis to Revelation was the sacred page. It all applied to the life of the medieval pilgrim. If the place of monastic theology was the monastery, the focus of this form of theology was the sacred page, the text of scripture itself. I remember in the the liturgy, they had their canonical hours, so they would praise scripture, they would sing Scripture. It was the first word off their tongue in the morning and the last off their tongue at night. As a matter of fact, they woke up in the middle of the night. In order to a pray away the devil and to recite scripture. Yet again. So the object of their work is the page itself. Its whole incomplete. The goal of monastic study of theology is to be applied to the life of the medieval pilgrim. The image of the Christian on the way back to the Triune God is central to the thinking of the monastics. So this is just very briefly gives you an orientation to the monastic way of doing theology. They were very concerned about using biblical terminology.
[00:21:09] And while it's true that there were occasions for them to use philosophical terms, nonetheless the majority of their terminology was taken directly from Scripture. Interestingly enough, just think about this. Back then, they didn't have concordance. They didn't have the kind of tools you and I have. And it's a fact that many of these monks were walking concordance. And one of the ways that they did their scriptural exegesis are their see, that's a modern term applied to an ancient is that's anachronistic. But nonetheless when they went to the study of the Bible, if you were to say a word, say like grass immediately, it would trigger in the mind of the monk that term and how it appeared all through the text of Scripture. So they might begin to recite in the Psalms and carry that through in a number of different places. And so their way of doing theology was collating scriptures that spoke about the same kind of issues. So this is a rather different way of doing theology than what we might be familiar with today. Now. Scholasticism. Has a different way of going about things. The rise of scholastic theology in the 12th century shifted from the sacred page or sacra pagina to sacred, doctrinal or sacred doctrine. The formation of the university necessitated a new approach to the study of Scripture. The limitations of this of the class structure and the periodic change of academic years meant that a leisurely familiarity with the entire sacred page, as the monks had practiced it, was no longer possible. Instead, the study of Holy Scripture had to be accommodated to the demands of the Academy, and this was done through the efficient method of question, distinction and conclusion. That was the method. So if you want to think about place for this kind of theology, it was not in the monastery as it was for monasticism, but it's in the university.
[00:23:23] Its method is the question. It's the question. You ask a question, you make a distinction, and then you come to a conclusion. And if you've ever read any of Saint Thomas Aquinas, you know what I'm talking about. The contract said throughout all of this. But on the other hand, there's this one might say. But there is this. The question arises. And so the whole process of scholastic theology is the matter of making distinctions important for theology and then coming to conclusion. The shift from the sacred page to the to sacred doctrine was the shift from locating the substance of theology and scripture to locating the subject, the substance in doctrine. Okay, So for the monastics, the subject or the substance of of theology was in scripture, the text, the page of the text for the scholastics. The substance of theology is in deriving doctrine from Scripture. We need to know what the dark, what Scripture says, and we're going to formulate it into doctrines. They didn't have time simply to allow the text to remain as a text. They needed to derive precipitate out the substance of the essence of the biblical message. They did that in formulating doctrine, sacred doctrine. So this way of approaching things, then the place is the academy or the university. The method is quite still. The goal is to derive doctrine. Notice it's not quite so tied with the idea of Christian pilgrims, but it's much more identified with the matter of coming up with right doctrine, the right distinctions. Now there's this third approach or way of doing theology, and it's known as humanism. Erasmus of Rotterdam is perhaps the most well-known humanist of this time period. The practice of theology among the Christian humanists can be described as the study of the sacred letter of Scripture, Sacra, Lettre or sacred the Letter of Scripture.
[00:25:51] Theology was not seen as the monk's work of prayer and praise. Nor as the professors, academic questions and propositions. But as the educative task of reviving the pagan and Christian classics. It was hoped and in Christian humanism, that the renewal of Western culture effected within this movement would eventuate in a renewal in the life of the Church. It's interesting to note that Erasmus was one who was quite generous in his criticisms of the Church of the Day, and he was just appalled at the lack of learning of many of the priests. He saw this as one of the great sources of the decline of the church and wanted to reverse this. The intent or goal of studying the sacred letter of Scripture was not so much to lead men and women to God as it was to lead to a better society. Church education and government theology as the study of the philosophy of Christ. And that is the phrase that comes out of Erasmus, was to lead to piety, morality and justice. And so this particular approach of Christian humanism has its own set of of interests. There's much more that could be said about these three different approaches to theology. But it's in this context that Luther is doing his struggles. And we find then that as Luther is thrown into the work that's given to him in the Augustinian order, it comes to him to lecture on the Psalms. Now, in the first Psalms lecture, Luther statements about sin are clearly more and more radical than in the marginal notes of 1509 and 1510. Remember that Luther is concerned with giving exposition of the Psalms, and we read that selection of his comments on Psalm 51. The Psalms are full of confession of sin.
[00:28:02] And so it's precisely at this point that Luther begins to find differences between the texts of Scripture and what he reads about in scholastic theology of his time. So we find that in Luther there's an emerging understanding of sin. The concept of sin is more and more radical as compared to scholastic theology of his day. First, he Luther talks about these four theses. He says, First, all men are in sin before God and commit sin. That is, they are sinners, in fact. Second to this God himself bore witness through the prophets and established the same at last by the suffering of Christ. For it is on account of the sin of men that He made him suffer and die. Third God is not justified in himself, but in His words and in us. Fourth, we become sinners. Then, when we acknowledge ourselves to be such, for such, we are before God. So Luther's understanding of the nature of sin is moving in a biblical fashion, and he finds himself at odds with certain scholastic formulations. The sin this this sent before God in Latin Coram Deo, is the authentic spiritual sin, and cannot merely be identified with transgression of the mosaic law. Luther identified this genuine hidden sin in Psalm 51 with original sin. And here he parts company with the formulation of the scholastics. Also, we find in his lectures on the Psalms an emerging understanding of grace which differs markedly from scholastic theology. One of the things that's striking about his work here is that he does not use the terminology of scholasticism. And in describing the nature of grace. Scholastic in medieval theology had made all kinds of distinctions in grace. There was initiating grace. There was preventing grace. There is saving grace.
[00:30:28] There are all different forms, shapes, kinds of grace that had been divided up according to the method of Scholasticism. But Luther, it seems, is happy to allow this concept of grace to retain its more biblical form, and he allows that to move him in terms of his understanding of what it is that Grace does. The statement in Psalm 32 two. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin, gave him occasion to remark. This means that whoever is righteous to whom God reckons righteousness as He did to Abraham, according to the Apostle, to such a one, He does not impute sin because he reckons righteousness to him. What's of interest here is first that the use of the concepts imputation is is used, and then again the interpretation of the Psalms with the aid of Paul. And further, the concepts were known to Luther from his alchemist training. But here, however, he no longer used them in the terms of the Alchemist idea, but in appalling sense. Scholasticism was in dispute over whether forgiveness precedes justification and over how the two relate to each other. Luther did not discuss this question in the Psalms lecture. He is in material agreement with Paul. He assumed a vital connection between forgiveness and justification. There is much more that we could say about this, but. Basically, we're finding Luther struggling for this theology that gets at the meat of the nut. And in his lectures on Psalms, he's finding that the terminology of Scripture is precisely what he needs and where he wants to stay. In his lectures on Romans. Interestingly enough, we find a very. Should we say original formulation as he begins his commentary. He sets himself off from previous tradition and indicates a major structural difference as he starts on his lectures on Romans.
[00:32:54] This is what he says. The exodus of the people. Israel has for a long time been interpreted to signify the transition from vice to virtue. But one should rather interpret it as the way from virtue to the grace of Christ, because virtues are often the greater and worse faults, the less they are regarded as such and the more powerfully they subject to themselves. All human affections beyond all other goods. So also the right side of Jordan was more fearful than the left one. An interesting little quotation from Luther. What's he talking about? Let me try to unpack this very briefly. In many exegesis or in in many theologians of his time. The exodus in the Old Testament was interpreted to signify a spiritual journey. Okay, see, the problem is this. Look, you and I aren't Jews, are we? We didn't experience the Exodus. We weren't there. We didn't get our feet wet or we didn't keep them dry as we walk through the Red Sea. The exodus is not our event. It's not our experience. So what? Pray tell, what significance does this have for Christians? In order to make the Old Testament come alive, The interpreters of the medieval time frame said, Well, this signifies something else. There is an analogy going on here. The exodus was true literally for the people of Israel. But it is true for us spiritually. And what is the truth? We are moving from sin. Living in Egypt was a terrible thing. Egyptians, of course, are pagans. They worship false gods and all kinds of things. And that's a sinful realm in which to live. But when we as Christians move from being pagans, being sinful, dominated by false gods, moving through the Red Sea and into the promised land, now we have come through to true spiritual truth reality.
[00:35:12] It's a new life. So the exodus is true spiritually for us Christians. That's what the majority of the tradition says. Notice what Luther is doing. It's radical. It's different. And, you know, I got to say, before we move to Luther, isn't that quite often how we talk about the exodus in our churches? It signifies something. Maybe we're closer to the medieval than we think. But notice what Luther does. It's radical. What he says is this one should rather interpret it as the way from virtue to the grace of Christ. Normally we think, well, you know, when you become a Christian, you set aside simple ways and now you become holy. But if one understands Christianity simply in terms of morality. Then there's a major problem. And the major problem that Luther is pointing out is simply this. We have to repent of our virtues as well as our sins. You see what's going on here? The beginning of a radical reformation theology. See, God is God is not saying, okay, we basically are good people. And insofar as you're good, I'll accept you. What we need to do is we need to add a little bit of grace. So that bad part of your life can be overcome. Luther says, Time out. That's not how Grace operates. Grace is not piecemeal. Grace is not something which gives you a little bit more oomph for your spiritual engine. Grace is radical because it sees right through to the heart of the matter. It's not simply your sinful deeds, not simply your bad actions, but it's also your good actions in which you can take spiritual pride that are also the problem. So notice what Luther is doing. A theology that consists and comments on Scripture. He's developing a task of theology and he's wrestling for new formulations.
[00:37:14] And the fun thing about Luther and also the difficult thing about Luther, it's quite often you'll find him taking familiar constructions and just turning them on their head. That's what he's done here. We normally think, Well, what does it mean to become a Christian? Well, you leave your sinful ways now. You become good. But if you're not careful and all of that's true, it's true. We do turn from our sins and we come into righteousness before God. But you have to be careful if you're preaching to a congregation and the the gist of your message is, be good. And God's going to help you. You haven't said anything different than what the Scholastic said. And Luther's trying, and he is. He's struggling for a new formulations. That's. That's. That's not it. Because that renders Christianity simply as a new moralism. You know what? There are Mormons that are more moral than many of the Christians that I know. If we get caught describing Christianity simply in terms of morality, we have really lost sight of the biblical message, haven't we? Because the Bible is after something much more radical than that. And Luther catches it here. It's a matter of sin. Sin is not simply that I have a few personal faults and I need some divine help to overcome them. Sin means I am absolutely wayward. I have turned my back on God. I have said no to God. I don't want God to be God because I don't trust him. Since there is not simply a matter of moral fault or I told a lie or, you know, I had an affair with a monica Lewinsky or whatever. That's not it. No, sin is much more radical than that. And Luther's trying to get at this formulation, and it has everything to do with how he sees the task of theology.
[00:39:10] Now, point three a theology that is distinct from philosophy. Once again, we come to a very interesting formulation in Luther's and Luther's theology and a quick word about the relationship between theology and philosophy. We have to understand that the encounter between Christian faith and. Greek philosophy, which took place early on in the tradition. Was simply the outcome of the evangelistic mission of the church. The mission of the church is to go into all the world making disciples. Well, if you happen to be in Greece, that means you've got to deal with Greeks. And if you're dealing with Greeks, then they've got a particular philosophy, even as if you deal with Americans. We have a particular philosophy characterized by pragmatism and a number of other things. When when when early Christianity came into conflict with the culture of the day, it had to deal seriously with. Philosophical questions. And when you go back and take a look at the tradition, the ecumenical creeds, you will find that they are formulated in philosophical language. The homo oozes, the homeboy oozes that big struggle over Christology. It's done in the Greek language, and it's done in the context of this philosophical argumentation. Now, on the one hand, we have to say the Christian faith stands over and against all philosophies because the cross of Jesus Christ breaks through every human cultural setting and every human worldview. But on the other hand, we have to say that Christianity, if it is going to be effective in speaking a word of truth to a given culture, must do so with knowledge of that culture. And quite often in the language of the culture. You know, recently we had a student who came back from the mission field in Africa. He, as a Wickliffe Bible translator, had run into a serious problem.
[00:41:26] He was working with a language group that had no word for covenant, and he was translating the Old Testament. Well, how do you get through to a people and translate transmit the message of Scripture with this kind of cultural barrier? That was his problem. He came back to Gordon Cornwell, spent a year here studying Old Testament language. He'd already had that in his background. But he he really spent a year studying on this problem so that he could go back and then give some kind of solution to this translation problem. That. Characterizes what Christianity always has to do. It runs up against cultural settings and philosophies of one sort or another. So the fact that Christian theology is in dialog with philosophical formulations of one sort or another may indeed be a dangerous thing. The danger is that we might compromise, capitulate, give in to certain kinds of philosophical formulations that are that aren't Bible. But on the other hand, we cannot refuse to take that risk because our task is to translate the gospel and be purveyors of the gospel, as it were, no matter where we are and no matter what language we're speaking. So there is always interchange between these two. The question is to what degree? Now, Luther was faced with a situation in which Scholastic theology held the day, and it was so firmly in place that he had to wrestle with how he was going to deal with this. He was convinced that scholastic theology and its derived form was no longer presenting the gospel was, but was indeed hiding the gospel. And so he set out on a quest in order to promote holy Scripture, as opposed to promoting Aristotle. Let's just take a quick look. If you happen to have your your lull, if you open up to page 13, you'll find there is the disputation against scholastic theology.
[00:43:54] Just a couple of quick notes about this. Nothing. We're not going to do anything that would approach being a complete commentary on this disputation. I just want to touch down in a couple of different places so that you begin to get a feel for where Luther is going in formulating the task of theology. One of the sources that Luther is returning to is Augustine. Luther is a part of an Augustinian order. So of course it's important for him to know the founder of his own order. And he is returning to Augustine and his anti-pollution writings in particular. And he is using Agustin as a tool, as a purveyor of the tradition, so that he can assess the tradition of his own time. Notice what he says. This is thesis one. To say that Agustin is exaggerates in speaking against heretics. Is to say that Agustin tells lies almost everywhere. This is common knowledge or this is contrary to common knowledge. A thesis to this is the same as permitting police agents and all heretics to triumph. Indeed, the same as conceding victory to them. Thesis three It is the same as making sport of the authority of all doctors of theology. Four. It is therefore true that man being a bad tree can only will and do evil. And remember, this is a figure that we talked about the other day. The scholastics said if you do good works, you will build up a habit of virtue and you will become a good person. Luther says that's to describe Christianity as moralism. Luther says, No, you don't become a good person by doing good things. You become a good person by being declared righteous. It is true that man being a bad tree can only will do evil.
[00:45:57] Matthew seven is using this this image that Jesus uses in the Gospel of Matthew. It is false to say that a man's inclination is free to choose between either of two opposites. Indeed, the inclination is not free, but captive. This is said in opposition to common opinion. The common opinion that he's fighting against here is scholastic theology, which said, as an individual, you stand in such a position that with the aid of grace, you can choose either the good or the bad. You have the possibility. In essence, there is a third place to stand or a neutral place to stand, as it were, in order to make a decision about these things. Luther says that's not the case. That does not take the matter of sin seriously. Thesis six It is false to state that the will can by nature conformed to correct precept. This is said in opposition to SCOTUS and Gabriel. Just a quick note. He is fighting against scholastic theologians. There is a large section in this disputation against scholastic theology having to do with nature and grace. And in this disputation, Luther sets out a fundamental difference that he has with Scholasticism over Grace for Scholasticism. Grace is an added virtue. You are. Good. In part, insofar as you do bad things, you're sinful and what you need is added grace in order to overcome this sin problem. That's according to Scholasticism. Much, much more can be said about this, and we'll say some more things about the different kinds of merit that the Scholastics talked about later on. But Luther says no grace. It's not some added quality, but rather grace overcomes nature or grace destroys nature. The whole sin problem is not a simple problem of morality. But of total waywardness grace is that which reconnects us in a living way with the living God.
[00:48:11] A couple of quotations from this disputation, which will give you a feel for where he's going. He says virtually the entire ethics of Aristotle is the worst enemy of grace. This in opposition to the scholastics. Thesis 42. It is an error to maintain that Aristotle's statement concerning happiness does not contradict Catholic doctrine. This in opposition to the doctrine on morals. Thesis 50 briefly. Oh, this is. This is good. This sums it up briefly. The whole Aristotle is to theology as darkness is to light. This in opposition to the scholastics. Luther is struggling to find the task for theology. He wants a theology that gets at the meat of the nut and not one which describes Christian theology simply as another moralism. Now, it's interesting to note here for you fans of philosophy in theses 51, he says this, It is very doubtful whether the Latins comprehended the correct meaning of Aristotle. So it would seem that for Luther, he's convinced that most scholastics don't really understand what Aristotle is about. We could go further to say that Luther probably believed that Aristotle was really correct in a number of places. If you work hard, there's a place in Aristotle where he talks about becoming a harpist. If you play the harp, then you'll become a harpist. I'm sure that Lucy would agree with that if you work hard at something. Even moral things, you may become successful. And so in that respect, I don't think he has a beef with Aristotle. But insofar as scholastic theology has allowed Aristotle to overpower or overshadow the gospel, that's where he has this problem now. The Heidelberg Disputation. I'm going to mention this just in passing. We'll deal with it more completely in a couple of lectures, a couple of lectures from now.
[00:50:19] In the Heidelberg Disputation, there is the Locus classic course of Luther's task of theology. It is the description of crutches, the theology of the cross. And we'll talk about that later on. But just very briefly. He talks about the distinct and a theology of glory. And here what he's attempting to say is that we know God, as he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we know him even in suffering and the cross a suffering in the cross that we too must go through. We'll talk more about this in a couple of lectures to. For Luther's approach to theology. It's forged in the crucible of pastoral care. We've already mentioned his struggle with the 95 theses and dealing with individuals who had, I suppose to use some other terminology from Luther, had become smug, self-righteous sinners because they assumed that by the purchase of a letter of indulgence, they had plenary remission of sense. He thought this was a monstrous affront. Not only to Catholic doctrine, which it contravened. But also he believed that this was a terrible imposition upon the laity. He accuses later on in his career of the pope being a murderer. He murders the laity because he keeps from them a true knowledge of the gospel. So his theology is one which tries to get at the meat of the nut precisely insofar as he is always dealing with issues of salvation. For him, theology cannot become an abstract academic enterprise, but must always be engaged with life. Let me eight sermons. We'll talk about that some other time. Let's rush on here now to a theology, the knowledge of God and man. There is a quotation later on in Luther's writings in which he talks about the proper subject of theology.
[00:52:42] This is what he says. This comes out of his commentary in some 51 written in 1532. The proper subject of theology is man guilty of sin and condemned and God, the justifier and savior of man, the sinner. Whatever is asked or discussed in theology outside this subject is error and poison. All Scripture points to this that God commends his kindness to us and in His son, restores to righteousness and life the nature that has fallen into sin and condemnation. The issue here is not this physical life, what we should eat, what we should work at, what we should undertake, how we should rule our family, how we should till the soil. All these things were created before men in paradise and were put into man's hands. Whoever follows the same and reading the Holy Scriptures. The issue here is the future and eternal life. The God who justifies repairs and makes a life and man who fell from righteousness and life into sin and eternal death. Whoever follows the same and reading the Holy Scriptures will read holy things fruitfully. Okay. What he's talking about here is a knowledge of God and man together. It's interesting to note that this formulation also can be found in Calvin, who comes after Luther. Therefore, this theological knowledge is necessary. A man should know himself, should know, feel and experience that he is guilty of sin and subject to death. But he should also know the opposite. That God is the justifier and redeemer of man who knows himself this way the care of other men who do not know their sins. Let us leave to lawyers, physicians and parents who discuss man differently from the way a theologian does. So it's interesting what Luther is attempting to do here, setting out a task of theology which recognizes the knowledge of God, but not as an abstract knowledge.
[00:54:43] But of God, who is the justifier of man? Who is the sinner? Now, what I say simply is this week, just to summarize, philosophy has its proper role. It has its particular terminology. It has its way of describing things in the formulations of Aristotle and Scholasticism. There is a definition of man which is altogether appropriate. Philosophy defines man as a rational animal. Such things are for science to discuss. And so Luther says theology has its particular realm and terminology and its way of going about business. A lawyer speaks of Mann as an owner and a master of property and a physician speaks of man is healthy or sick, but a theologian discusses man as a sinner in theology. This is the essence of man. The theologian is concerned that men become aware of this nature of his corrupt that is corrupted by sin. When this happened, despair follows casting him into hell in the face of the righteous God. What Suleiman do, who knows that his whole nature has been crushed by sin and that there is nothing left on which he can rely, but that his righteousness has been reduced to exactly nothing. When the mind has felt this much, the other part of this knowledge should follow. This is not a matter of speculation either, but completely of practice and feeling. A man hears and learns what grace and justification are, what God's plan is for the man who has fallen into hell, namely, that he has decided to restore man through Christ. Here, the dejected mind tears up, and on the basis of this teaching of grace and joyfully declares, Though I am a sinner in myself, I am not a sinner in Christ who has been made righteousness for us. I am righteous and justified through Christ, the righteous and the Justifier who is and is called the Justifier because he belongs to sinners and was sent for sinners.
[00:56:49] So philosophy has its realm. Theology has its realm. The two do come into dialog, but they are distinct.