Martin Luther - Lesson 20
Luther for Evangelicals
Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.
Luther for Evangelicals
Luther for Evangelicals
Luther, the Pastor: 2 Kings 15:16
Luther as a Word event- The spoken word not only describes reality but it also shapes reality.
The theology of the cross transforms the landscape of the age.
I. We began our class with some thoughts entitled "About Reading Luther."
A. McGrath's vision of evangelicalism
1. Reformation thought
B. Evangelicalism's actual regarding appropriation
C. Mark Noll's suggestion regarding Luther's utility - Article in First Things in 1994
1. Doctrine of the church
2. Augustinian view of human nature
3. Objectivity of salvation
4. Voice of Luther
II. The State of Evangelicalism
A. Revisioning evangelical theology - Stanley Grenz
Modernist approach to theology is now no longer an adequate approach, therefore, theology should be a practical in terms for today in contextual terms.
B. Donald Bloesh
C. How far have we come?
III. Where Luther can be helpful to us
A. Luther needs to be at the table - a partner in dialogue
Incredible classic texts
1. "Freedom of a Christian"
2. "Bondage of the Will"
B. Luther's non-speculative theology
1. Fundamentalist vs. Modernist led to apologetics that place us under scientific model and now this paradigm of modernity is shaken.
2. Proclamation is different than explanation.
C. Luther's theology of the cross
We as evangelicals have been willing to operate on a power paradigm and business strategies contrasts Luther's focus on hearing the Word and being changed by it.
D. Luther's drive to preaching.
1. Theology is 2nd order discourse, a talking about God.
2. Luther's method drives towards proclamation embedded in the theology of the cross.
E. Luther's nose for the gospel
F. Luther's concern for the church
1. Church is not just another reform.
2. In and with the Church is the word of salvation.
3. "We are beggars as that is the truth."
- 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
Luther for Evangelicals
Let's begin with a word from Luther here, Second Kings. Chapter six verse 16 reads in the following manner He replied, Do not be afraid, for there are more of us than there are with them. Luther says this. This is the Church of the Saints, the new creation of God, our brothers and our friends in whom we see nothing but blessing and nothing but consolation, though not always with the eyes of the flesh, but with the eyes of the spirit whose heart will not be lifted up even in the midst of great evils, when he believes the very truth, namely, that the blessings of all the saints are his blessings and his evil is also theirs. Therefore, when we feel pain, when we suffer, when we die, let us turn to this thought firmly believing and certain that it is not we alone, but Christ and the Church who are in pain and are suffering and dying with us. Christ does not want us to be alone on the road of death from which all people shrink. Indeed, we set out upon the road of suffering and death, accompanied by the entire church. Actually, the church bears it more bravely than we do. Thus we can truthfully apply to ourselves the words Elijah spoke to his fearful servants. Fear not, for those who are with us are more numerous than those with them. And Elijah prayed and said, Lord, open the eyes of the young man that he may see. And the Lord opened his eyes and he saw and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire around Elijah.
[00:01:55] All that remains for us now is to pray that our eyes, that is the eyes of our faith may be opened, that we may see the church all around us. Let's pause for prayer. Almighty Everlasting God, who, through your Holy Spirit, sanctifies and rules the whole church hear our prayer and graciously grant that with it all, its members, by your grace, may serve you in true faith through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen. Okay. Today, in kind of a bit of a summary, I want to speak under the title of Luther for Evangelicals. We've been reading Luther in this evangelical institution, and that carries with it certain freight. There's a certain direction, a certain ethos that we bring to a place like this and that we take away. And as we've been reading Luther, we've been wrestling with him from our evangelical perspectives. The questions that we bring to Luther are not the questions necessarily that Lutherans bring to Luther or that Catholics bring to Luther or that Orthodox spring to Luther. And so we've been wrestling with them in our own particular way in light of our own particular tradition. And should I say it traditions because evangelicalism is not a unified or monolithic movement by any means, as represented even by the denominational standing of of many of you here. But evangelical is something like a tossed salad that has lots of different parts and pieces, some more identifiable than others. If you're Baptist, then no doubt you're very well represented in that salad. If you're advent Christian, you're a little less so just in terms of numbers. And then, of course, there are all shades in between. Fortunately, we've got we've got some Congregationalist, we've got a Presbyterian, we've got we've got all kinds of other things.
[00:04:00] And of course, you know, they're their concentrations, their pockets. I mean, when we talk about Lutherans, interestingly enough, 80% of all counties in which over 50% of believers as that for statistic are are Lutheran. 80% of those counties are found in six states in the upper Midwest. So Lutherans really are concentrated in the upper Midwest. And it's it's an amazing phenomena. They're harder to find on the West Coast and fairly hard to find here on the East Coast, too. Evangelical free. That's right. Right. Well, and Evangelical Free has that connection with the Lutheran movement, the Swedish connection and all of that kind of stuff. Swedish, you know, scientism, that sort of thing is part and parcel of that. So and what we want to do is just do some very simple reflection today on what Luther for evangelicals might possibly mean. What I'd like to talk about is where I think Luther might be helpful for us as evangelicals. And of course, it's quite impossible to summarize an entire semester of reading, but I want to just be suggestive in a few. Now, of course, we began our class with some thoughts entitled about reading Luther. And in the midst of that, we talked about the joy and promise of reading Luther, his colorful sayings, Luther as a word event. You remember that? That's a long time ago. I don't expect you to remember that. But Luther as a word event, he really was a character committed to the rhetoric, the canons of rhetoric in the 16th century, which indicated which indicates we didn't have chance to really talk about the significance of rhetoric in Luther. But for him, the spoken word not only explains reality, but in its own way creates reality. We sometimes think, well, you know, words are just words, empty words, no particular meaning while we convey meaning, but they point away from their themselves as signs due to the real thing.
[00:06:13] But Luther was convinced that words themselves are the real thing because in a fascinating way, they convey reality. So, Luther, as a word event, we spoke about that Luther is a prodigious theologian. And with this theology of the cross, one of the things we have to recognize that in Luther, we have this tremendous theological mind at work and with a theology of the cross, there is a thoroughgoing reevaluation of the entire theological landscape of his day and age. So about reading Luther, that's just one of the facts of Luther. And so sorting through some of his thought forms and his classic texts is itself an experience that takes us back to the 16th century and causes us to return to our own time as well. We talked about obstacles to reading Luther, the polemic language, the medieval nature of his writings. I mean, he's talking about ex Oprah apparatus. He's talking about, you know, feeds character for Marta and all of these other kinds of phrases and issues. And so there's a medieval context to his writing. And we talked about those kinds of things. We talked about the different ways that one could read Luther Confessional or historically or ecumenical. And then we talked a little bit about reading Luther in an evangelical context, and we talked about McGrath's vision of of evangelicalism. And we mentioned the fact that within McGrath's way of viewing evangelicalism, he maintains that there are three streams of thought that helped to shape evangelicalism, reformation, thought pie, autism and puritanism. And in that mix, one of the things we said early on in the semester is that quite clearly evangelicalism has been affected more profoundly by Partizan and its commitments to revivalist stick forms of personal conversion and to the Puritan ideal, which comes directly through that original movement here to the United States.
[00:08:26] Now, Puritans thought little about Luther. They thought that he was one, but not the greatest of reformers, and they didn't have a particular taste for his person or for his theology, for that matter. And so relegated him to a second rank and talk about Luther devolved basically to kind of a courageous religious individual who was willing to break with Rome. But much beyond that, there wasn't anything identifiable of Luther in the Puritan movement. So we saw that this really is the case in terms of evangelicalism, actual appropriation. We also touched down very briefly on Mark Noel's suggestion regarding Luther's utility in preparation for class today. I went back to that little article by Mark Noel. It's a little piece that was published in the periodical First Things, and it's entitled The Lutheran Difference, and it's an article that appeared in 1992. And in this piece, Mark Noel suggests that Luther has very important utility for us today, and the evangelical world can learn from him. And very particularly Mark Noel suggests that Luther's utility for evangelical thinking comes in primarily four areas. He maintains that the doctrine of the church is a place where Luther can help our thinking. And in the. Defense of an Augustinian view of human nature and our understanding of the view of sin. Thirdly, the objectivity of salvation in which we understand in Luther preaching in the sacraments, convey the reality of salvation, one for us in Christ. And finally, the voice of Luther, which seems to be really a clear sounding out of the Gospel in his own day, where others mumbled Luther's voice sounds out clearly. So in those four ways, we talked a little bit about how evangelicalism might appropriate Luther and his thinking. But what I'd like to do now is just spend just just a couple of minutes talking about the state of evangelicalism and where we stand in terms of of this tossed salad state of Protestantism, generally speaking.
[00:11:21] And to do that, I would like to just make mention of this little piece. I'm not suggesting that Stanley Grant's work entitled Revisioning Evangelical Theology A fresh agenda for the 21st Century is necessarily what a majority of evangelicals would claim as representing their particular view on things. But he's just representative of what within evangelicalism is a broad kind of representation. So I simply make reference to his book because he's written a lot of stuff, and he is one voice among many in the evangelical world. Now, as he talks about revisioning evangelical theology, he claims that one thing is true, and that is the the modernist paradigm, the enlightenment paradigm for doing theology is passing out of the scene. And most evangelical theology has been framed in that older mindset. Evangelicalism in terms of modernism, was concerned to talk about propositional truth, was interested in identifying the eternal truths that the Bible sets forward. And so he claims to oversimplify what Granz is doing. He claims that what most of evangelical theology has been up to in the last number of years, particularly since the Second World War, is to summarize the data of the Bible, to collate the doctrines between the Old Testament and the New Testament so that the task of systematic theology really is the task of the summarizing of the biblical text. It is an eternal truth, and therefore we can precipitate that out. Now, what he claims is that that is really no longer an adequate way of dealing or of defining theology. He claims that the contemporary situation demands that we as evangelicals, not view theology merely as the restatement of a body of propositional truths, as important as doctrine is. Rather, theology is a practical, discipline oriented primarily toward the believing community.
[00:13:58] Now, one of the things that Green's is trying to underline here is simply to say that theology is not done outside of the context of the community of faith. One of the things he's implying, actually, he asserts in his work is that as evangelicals, we have quite often described salvation in terms of, well, in individualistic terms, bringing one person to salvation here, pray, you know, these are for spiritual laws, pray this prayer, and you become a Christian. And so the task of evangelization is to get people to pray the prayer and the whole process of theology insofar as it describes the theological task as a restatement of body of propositional truths, ties itself to the Enlightenment paradigm and is usually driven by kind of an individualistic approach to a personal experience with God. One of the things He's trying to say is we need to move away from that. Post-modernism is helping us to see that the individualistic way of looking at the world is no longer adequate. But we need to recognize that salvation is not a matter of an individual salvation, but that God is saving a people unto himself. So that theology has to be understood as something that's done within the context of a community. So that's one of the things that he is fighting for grants in the course of his argumentation sites. Jack Davis, our own John Jefferson Davis, as he writes under and he cites with approval, saying that Davis faults the older evangelical approach, saying it this way when he faults the older evangelical approach for not taking, quote, adequate account of the social context of the theological task and the historicity of all theological reflection. Davis claims that this approach tends to promote a repetition of traditional formulations of biblical doctrine rather than appropriate re contextualization of the doctrines in response to changing cultural and historical conditions.
[00:16:14] So one of the things Davis is talking about, look, we do theology, but our theology always is done within a context. We need to contextualize this thing. And Grant's agrees. Donald Black, in his description of theology, says this. My contention is that to be evangelical means to hold to a definite doctrine as well to as to participate in a special kind of experience. My contention is that to be evangelical means to hold to a definite doctrine as well as to participate in a special kind of experience. As a result, he finds in modern evangelicalism a tension between reformation theology and PI autism. I find that interesting. Francis little reflection on the statement by Lesch that there's a tension between reformation theology and patriotism. You see, actually, patriotism was a reaction to dry orthodoxy that set in after the Reformation. And of course, as a lover of Luther, I like to say, man, you know, if you just read Luther, you recognize that reformation or theology about Luther's theology is anything but divorced from experience. I mean, it's stamped on every page, for goodness sake. How can you talk about the death of the old atom being raised up to new life in faith without talking about experience? Experience is an absolutely essential category in Luther's thinking and expression. So I find this kind of discussion itself, interestingly, removed from Luther. So how far have we come? How far have we come this semester in our reading of Luther, How far we come in terms of appropriating Luther for this evangelical scene that's struggling with its self-identity and trying to identify the theological task? Well, I hope that you've come some distance in terms of your reading in Luther. And I want to suggest that there are just a few ways in which Luther might be helpful to us.
[00:18:32] Well, it seems to me that one way in which Luther can be helpful to us is simply for Luther to be a partner in dialog. Luther needs to be a partner in dialog. He needs to be at the table while we do our theological work. You are launching how well many of you have already launched out on lives of ministry, and I'm hoping I'm trusting that Luther will continue to be someone you'll read, to learn from and to dialog with whether or not you end up agreeing with him at all points, because I think he really does need to be at the table. There are some incredible classic texts in Luther and you've had the great opportunity to read selections from those and in some cases read the entire bit. I mean, like the freedom of a Christian. Now there is a piece that you could use in your own church setting as a basic introduction to theology. There is so much good stuff in that one treatise alone that your your experience, your encounter with Luther hopefully will change the way that you do your work as a theologian in the context of the church. Of course, your wrestling and reading with bondage of the will no doubt has allowed you to run across a few passages worthy of second reading. There may be some stuff there that you continue to find baffling and strange. And you know what? That in itself may not be a bad thing. I think one of the great benefits of having Luther at the table is to recognize that Luther may be hard to get a handle on. There is an alien Luther. And, you know, I found this experience absolutely captivating when I went to Marquette University to do my Ph.D..
[00:20:39] Kenneth Kenneth Hagan, my professor, not the Kenneth Hagan of, you know, that that face teacher from Oklahoma, but rather Luther the Luther's the international Luther scholar with Norwegian roots. And I remember he lectured to us on Luther's approach to scripture and an erotic zeal. He says, Luther never writes a commentary on Scripture. He only makes comments on scripture. And then he began to do to to to describe for us then in this class, the world of the 16th century in which Luther was operating, and the very different mindset and approach to theology that he had. And it was precisely the alterity of Luther in that moment, Luther as this alien theologian, while in a certain sense from another world, the 16th century world that was so strange and unusual to us that he became captivating for me. And I think Luther needs to be at the table with all of his strangeness, with all of his 16th century ness, so that we can be challenged and provoked precisely in our smug. Sense of modernity. You know, there's a tremendous hubris that arises within theological discourse today when we kind of, you know, smile in our patronizing way at the rough and coarse language of someone like Luther or the strange categories in which he thinks, because we, of course, as moderns know better. Ha ha ha. Well, you know, I just think there's something wonderful and fascinating about this kind of alien Luther. He needs to be at the table if for no other reason that we can come to grips and begin to recognize some of the traditional issues that have separated Protestants from Roman Catholics. But more than that, it seems to me that within, you know, if we just stick with this issue of the debates of the Lord's Supper, there's some wonderful things to note.
[00:22:47] Luther, for example, talks about the common cup bearing one another's burdens. And in the reading, just before class, you see how he views the church as being that place where we share with one another my pain. My burdens are shared by the entire church. The church, as it's in pain. And the church today is in pain, isn't it? Also becomes my pain and my point of concern. So, Luther, in dealing with the Lord's Supper, deals with some of these kinds of issues as well. You know, we promote individualism within our own traditions, even at the matter of the Lord's Supper. You know, we have these little plastic cups that we use quite often. Individual shot glasses, as it were, for communion, you know, wouldn't it be wonderful just to experience the common cup once or twice or three or more times in our own lives? That might be an experience worth it. I remember going to the Lutheran Seminary, and of course, you know, I come from an incredibly low church background. I mean, no creed, but the Bible. That's the kind of group I come from. And I remember the experience of going to chapel at Luther Seminary, and the students would all gather into the chapel. And I was you know, this is a big seminary. So there, you know, several hundred people in this room. And then there'd be the preaching of the word, and then we would come forward for the Lord's Supper. And there was the common cup. And I remember the experience, an altogether different setting. And I remember sitting in my place and watching this great line of people. And of course they'd let the the rows come out and then there would be a line up, you know, and then they would be communing at two, three or four stations up front, you know, And they would they would do this thing.
[00:24:39] The body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ, said for you direct words to it to to the individuals. But you could just see the line of people. All shapes and sizes. You know, all shapes and sizes. Good students, bad students, weird people, normal people, all of that. And, you know, I thought to myself, yes, this is what the church is about. And it was a wonderful setting to see that. And because the supper really is for everyone, Luther needs to be at the table simply to inform us of what's going on. Look, one of the next things has to do with Luther's not speculative theology. One of the things that's plagued evangelicalism is we've had a tendency to try to explain things according to a scientific structure. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were the great fights between the fundamentalists and the modernists. And at the heart of that struggle was the antipathy, or apparently so between the new scientific model and religious concerns. And supposedly those could never be reconciled. Now, as fundamentalists, there was kind of a moving away from society, society as a whole and the separation. But there was an attempt on the part of certain evangelicals to have a rational faith. And so the whole business of apologetics took center stage. You've got Cornelius Van Tyll, and you've got a whole group of Josh McDowell and a whole group of others who have made apologetics their prime task in terms of doing the evangelical theological thing. We've got to have reasons for everything, and we'll tell you how it is. There has been this kind of approach to doing our theological work, and we have, in a certain respect, tied our wagon to a scientific model, which now is under complete renovation and remodeling.
[00:26:49] This puts us in kind of a difficult spot, doesn't it, because we have tied ourselves to a particular view of truth. Carl F.h. Henry and his understanding of propositional truth and certain other associated doctrines became the paradigm and the norm. That's something that Gran's is saying, Well, maybe we need to rethink that. And we've had a particular mindset then as evangelicals where we've had to explain things. We've gotten into these kind of these fights. It's still there's a sense of defensiveness. We've tried to explain the rationality of Christian out Christianity, and thus we have lost the unerring sense that as theologians, our real task is to proclaim. Proclamation is different than explanation. And so Luther has a non speculative theology that basically says, look, we have an authority, namely the word of God. And we our task is to set that forward for Scripture will make you wise and to salvation. But it's not necessary for us to answer every single question that might occur to the human mind that if if there's nothing else that you take from your reading of bondage to the will. Certainly that's got to be it. There were critical points in that classic text that you remember where it says, We don't know. We don't need to know and we're not going to talk. Now, that, of course, is greatly aggravating to some people who want to hammer out some of the issues. But Luther saw his task as theologian is to speak where the word speaks and to be silent, where the word is silent. So Luther has a non speculative theology that's quite willing to say or to come up to two limits and say, I'm not going to make pronouncement here. I'm going to leave this open because I think this is something that Scripture leaves open.
[00:28:46] And that's precisely where we come out on this issue of predestination, for example, in the Lutheran tradition. You have Luther saying, Well, in terms of human logic, you might have to say, Yeah, God, if he, you know, chooses those for salvation, then ultimately it means he chooses those for damnation. But he's not willing to say that because he reads in Scripture other kinds of passages that would indicate something contrary to that. So he wants to leave that gap open. And so as a theologian, there are limits to what we can do. Now, of course, you see already here, we're beginning to talk about the theology of the cross. You recognize Luther's concern. This has to do with how God reveals himself as well as how God deals with us. And ultimately, Luther's theology of the Cross cuts off the human quest to be ahistorical beings. You see, there are two stories of theology. One is the soul who has kind of lost their way. And now religion has come to help you find your way back. But there's continuity in terms of you as a religious being. So you just need some instruction, some moral help, and then you can make it on your own. That's the theology of glory. That's what a lot of evangelicals preach on a Sunday morning, unfortunately. You just you know, you just need to be a little bit better or, you know, I've heard it over and over again on a Sunday morning. Well, you know, if you just prayed more, then, you know, the fullness of God would overflow and people would come up to you and ask you, what do you have? And then they would want to become a Christian, too. And you could lead them in the for spiritual laws and the prayer that comes at the end of that.
[00:30:32] You know, it's a very formula thing, you know? But I'm thinking, no, no, that's not it. Because the pastor many, many times has left me leaving the the worship service on a Sunday morning with a list of things to do. You must do this. You must be this. You must do that. You must be this. But Christianity is not ultimately moralism, and it's not a way of repairing an essentially religious person and essentially a good person that's on their way to God. Luther's theology of the Cross says something altogether different. Cuts off the human quest to be an ahistorical being. On the contrary. Yet Luther's theology of the Cross talks about are being put to death, being raised to new life. The word of the law puts us to death, puts us six feet under, puts us in a place where we can do no work. The unconditional where the gospel does preaching the law shows us that we need a savior and the gospel shows us there's nothing we can do but that it has already been done in Christ Jesus. So Luther's theology of the Cross, then, is an important place for us to begin to appropriate Luther again. So it seems to me he speaks precisely to evangelicalism at this point, because quite often in evangelicalism, we have been willing to operate under a power paradigm, a power paradigm. And if you just check out some of the evangelical rhetoric about what it means to be evangelical, you will find this kind of power paradigm rhetoric all over the place. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so you can have a ministry that's full of power. And if you tune in to the televangelist quite often, you'll get this kind of talk.
[00:32:26] You know, we just need to have more power in our preaching, in our teaching. We just have to have to have more power as a movement. If we just get together and do another campaign, I don't know whether you remember back to it. Back in the seventies, there was a big campaign. How did it go? Even I've forgotten how it went. But there was a little there was a little bumper sticker that these Christian businessmen put out, you know, ask me about, you know, Jesus or some some such thing. But there was this push back in the seventies in order to evangelize the United States by the year such and such. And all of these kind of business paradigms have been taken over into the evangelical world and most often their power paradigms. But notice, if we really take Luther seriously and a theology of the cross, we're no longer talking about a power paradigm which assumes the freedom of the will and the continuing religious subject. And all we need to do is change a few of the the values signs, and then we'll really begin to take off and we'll really overtake the whole world. Now, in Luther's understanding of the theology of the Cross. There is a commitment to sitting under the word and hearing it being changed by it. It's not power in in the sense of thinking, well, now we are the church and therefore we need to somehow bring into subjection all of those who are outside. But rather, it's an understanding that we are in the shadow of the cross. And now, as those who have been put to death and have been raised to new life, now we are the beginning of a new redeemed humanity. And it's our task to speak in a saving, winning way so that others too, might see that what Christ has done represents His Lordship, his servant Lordship, over all that we will be finally at the end of time, fully fulfilled when the Earth is made new so that we don't have to go rushing off to do spiritual or heavenly things, but that our real task is to serve the neighbor in the world so that there is no contradiction between the world which is to come and the world in which we live now.
[00:35:12] For in time. As Christians, we pray thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So Luther's theology of the Cross allows us to be Christians with both feet on the ground. You know, the history of American Christianity is the story of millennial ism. And, you know, even more than any of your groups, I come from a group for which that was the case. We look forward to the second coming of Christ as a cataclysmic event over and against the postcolonialism of the Puritans. But by so doing, what happened to us is that we in many significant ways left the world for a religious one. And that's what has characterized a good portion of evangelical piety pie in the sky, as it were. And so liberals, liberal Christians look at us evangelicals, and they say, you guys, because you're so involved in in trying to get people saved, you don't care about social action. And so there has been a tendency to view evangelicalism and liberalism as being divided on this point in a theology of the cross. These two things come together. And it's precisely here, it seems to me, that Luther can inform our theology so that we can begin to reconstruct. We do constructive theology in the evangelical world so that we move to an appreciation of the kingdom to come. In light of the prayer that we pray the Lord's Prayer. Luther's drive to preaching. This is something that can help. We need to recognize that there's a difference between second order discourse and first order discourse. Theology is second order. Discourse. Theology is what we do. After we've heard the word of the gospel, we've been changed by it and we reflect on it and then we say it again.
[00:37:04] This is what happened to me at second, just second order of discourse. We're talking about God. But Luther's concern, as you know, from a theology of the cross, is to move simply from a theology which is an explanation of how things go. His theological method. Drives toward the proclamation he drives, for example, in the Lord's Supper, he's saying, This is my body for you, for the forgiveness of sins. He wants to get to the place where we as ministers administer the absolution in our preaching. He wants to preach. He wants us to preach the distinction between law and gospel such that our hearers recognize their own sinfulness and come to hear the voice of the gospel, which puts the word of the law, of the accusation of the law to rest. For those in our congregations that are smug. The Gospel will aggravate them and shake them up. For those who are coming to our worship services in despair or having consciences which are acutely touched, the word of the Gospel will come and put that to rest. Luther has this drive to preaching that's also deeply embedded in the theology of the cross. We move that. We have this drive toward preaching. First order discourse is the difference between talking about marriage and actually having two people say, I do. Saying I do actually accomplishes the marriage thing. You know, you can talk about marriage all day long. You can talk about husband and wife stuff. But until they actually say the I do, they're not married and like matter. We can talk about God. We can do all kinds of descriptive work. But until we finally say he is here for you, can you believe it? Then we haven't completed the cycle and moved to the critical task of preaching.
[00:39:13] And that's what Luther's theology does. Notice to Luther has this incredible, incredible a nose for the gospel. He's got a nose for the gospel. Now, as pastors, you're going to need to be very careful where you stake your claim. If you try to change a church by playing hardball with them, chances are good you're going to lose. Your task is to have to move to preaching, but you're also going to have to have a nose for the gospel. Let me just cite a couple of examples in Luther. You remember when Luther was hired away at the burg as Uncle Hands? He spent several months there, and during that time period in Vinton burg, there was this movement led by Karlstad. They moved toward an evangelical mass, and there were riots in Wittenberg where certain statues and things were were, you know, they were smashed. There was actually a riot out on the street. But when Luther comes back to town, he analyzes this whole situation in terms of the gospel. What is law and what is gospel? And all of this now crossed out and said, well, we have to smash these images of. You shall not make any graven image under the law. It's not a commandment. Do we need to fulfill that message? Yeah, that's a commandment. But isn't it also true that Moses made the golden Snake and raised it up so that the people might be cured and healed? We need to be very careful that we don't get on a hobbyhorse that turns out to be law. And that's what Luther identifies, is, Look, you've become the new Papists. Now, you said we must abolish these statues. Where do we read that? This is simply a new obligation, a new law, a new regulation.
[00:41:15] This is not gospel. And instead, he referred them back to say, Look, we need to preach the word and preach the word. And if people's consciences move, that's great. The Lord's Supper. Another example here, you had folks that for generations had received the Lord's Supper and one kind only just the bread. And when Luther goes back to the words of institution, he says, Well, look, it was instituted that we might have both bread and the cup. But he didn't force his hearers. He preached the gospel until their consciences came to understand the text. And they then became convinced of the fact they needed to take both kinds. He says, you know what you need to do as a preacher? Preach the word so much that the people come and ask you for both kinds. Then you won't get into this business where you're forcing something on them. You know, sometimes in a small church setting, pastors will come back to the congregation after going to a, you know, an evangelical seminar. This is how we evangelize the world in the next 20 years or whatever. And we're going to get on the bandwagon. We're going to do this thing and we're going to buy videos and send them out to all our neighbors or whatever. And you know what? We're throwing something. We're cramming something down our people's throats. And if we're not careful, we're going to pay a major price for that. In the past year, you may lose tremendous coinage. We need to be careful about the kinds of programs, plans and things that we put in front of our people that aren't tied directly to the nature of the gospel. Luther's got a nose for the gospel. And the thing about him, too, is that he will take up a position and he will fight for it too.
[00:43:01] There's some times when his polemic, he's not afraid to say, This is real. This really needs to be the way it is. Within Christianity Today, one might make the claim that it's actually being nice, which is the highest virtue. Luther never believed such a thing because truth is much more important than that. And we need to be nice about the way we do things. There are kind ways and civil ways of doing things and ways of doing things that are uncivil. But Luther has a nose for the gospel, and there I think he's a tremendous help to us. And finally, we have here Luther's concern for the church. You know, in evangelicalism, historically speaking, we'd have to say that for us, the church has been a voluntary association. We mentioned this on that class session where we talked about the nature of the church and the American Revolution out of the impulse of the Puritans and their desire to have this city on a hill, a theocracy developed here. You have a tremendous amount of energy, reforming energy that helps to move the American Revolution forward. Well, we get to the other side of the revolution and we say, look what wonderful things we can do. Tremendous optimism. We've beaten the most powerful nation in the world, England, in this revolution, this American revolution. And we think now that we can do just about anything. So there's tremendous optimism in terms of what we can do and the kind of government now we can invent. We're doing a new experiment in terms of government, and this spills over into our understanding of the nature of the church. The church then, is yet another voluntary association that is concerned with reform. But Luther understood that the church is not about reform.
[00:45:08] The church is the gathered people of God. It is the place where the gospel is heard and out of the hearing of the gospel comes ethics. Yes, comes action in the world. Yes. But the task of the church is not primarily that of reform. Evangelicalism still has very strong impulses that come from Puritanism. And it seems to me that he can help us here in our understanding of the nature of the church. There is a stability. There is a permanence. There is an abiding quality to the Church of Jesus Christ that comes to it because of the presence of the Gospel. Not because we have a great idea for what what should happen next. We need to be careful. And you see, this also comes in the theology of the cross. Some of our greatest reform efforts end up backfiring. We need to be deeply suspicious of those things that we do, religiously speaking, because it may turn out that our religious sins start to show precisely here. So it seems to me that Luther's concern for the church is another place where he can help us. Evangelicals are traditionally very weak in the doctrine, the church, and I think it would be a refreshing word if we could simply hear once again that it is in and with the church that we are saved outside the Christian church, there is no truth, no Christ and no salvation. And this is an important thing, I think, that we could hear again. Finally, I think just in closing here, Luther's is a clear sounding voice, and I like the way that Mark Noel puts it. At the end of his article, it says what especially Americans need to hear. It says, quote, that a person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened.
[00:47:24] He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering in the cross theology of glory calls evil, good and good evil. Theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. His voice says this. I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord. Who has redeemed me. A lost and condemned creature delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil. Not with silver or gold, but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death in order that I may be his. Says that Christians are always both justified and sinners. It says in Luther's last written words, We are beggars. And that's the truth.