Monday, July 18, 2011

Luther and the struggle for faith

One of the highlight chapters of 'Here I Stand' is 'The Struggle for Faith' - well worth a read on its own.

'This man who so undergirded others with faith had for himself a perpetual battle for faith.'

'Luther felt that his depressions were necessary. At the same time they were dreadful and by all means and in every way to be avoided and overcome. His whole life was a struggle against them, a fight for faith. This is the point at which he interests us so acutely, for we too are cast down and we too would know how to assuage our despondency. Luther had two methods: one was a head-on attack, the other an approach by way of indirection...'

‘I dispute much with God with great impatience,’ said he, ‘and hold him to his promises’. The Canaanite woman was a source of unending wonder and comfort to Luther because she had the audacity to argue with Christ...

All this is written for our comfort that we should see how deeply God hides his face and how we must not go by our feelings but only by his Word. All Christ’s answers sounded like no, but he did not mean no. He had not said that she was not of the house Israel. He had not said that she was a dog. He had not said no. Yet all his answers were more like no than yes. This shows how our hearts feel despondency. It sees nothing but a plain no. Therefore it must turn to the deep hidden yes under the no and hold with a firm faith to God’s word.’

'At other times, however, Luther advised against any attempt to wrestle one’s way through. 'Don’t argue with the Devil’, he said. ‘He has had five thousand years of experience. He had tried out all his tricks on Adam, Abraham and David, and he knows exactly the weak spots’. And he is persistent. If he does not get you down on the first assault, he will commence a siege of attrition until you give in from sheer exhaustion. Better banish the whole subject. Seek company and discuss some irrelevant matter...'

'Shun solitude. ‘Eve got into trouble when she walked in the garden alone. I have my worst temptations when I am by myself.’ Seek out some Christian brother, some wise counsellor. Undergird yourself with the fellowship of the church'

'But always and above all else the one great objective aid for Luther was the Scriptures, because this is the written record of the revelation of God in Christ. ‘The true Christian pilgrimage is not to Rome, or Compostela, but to the prophets, the Psalms and the Gospels’. The Scriptures assumed for Luther an overwhelming importance, not primarily as a source for antipapal polemic, but as the one ground of certainty.'

Here I stand, RH Bainton, Mentor 1978

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Luther's Lessons in Love

My holiday reading was 'Here I Stand' the classic biography of Martin Luther by Roland H. Banton. A brilliant book full of food for the soul. In the chapter on marriage entilted 'The School of Character' we get these insights from Luther...

'he [Luther] began to portray marriage as a school for character. In this sense it displaces the monastery, which had been regarded by the Church as the training ground of virtue..' (p235)

To one of his youngsters Luther said, 'Child, what have you done that I should love you so? You have disturbed this whole house with your bawling.' And when a baby cried for an hour and the parents were at the end of their resources, he remarked, This is sort of thing that caused the Church Fathers to vilivy marriage. But God before the last day has brought back marriage to its proper esteem.

'The greatest grace of God is when love persists in marriage.'

In the old days this sound advice was given to the bride: 'My dear, make your husband glad to cross the threshold at night', and to the groom, 'Make your wife sorry to have you leave'.