Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For where things are as they should be, there is no need for small mission societies to be organized within the church, for the whole church must itself be a great mission society....
-- C. F. W. Walther, Brosamen quoted in Moving Frontiers, edited by Carl S. Meyer

Monday, October 26, 2009

[Although] man knows number and its secret he no longer knows that even number, which determines days, years and seasons, is not self contained, that it too rests only upon the Word and command of God. Number is not itself the truth of God. Like everything else it is his creature and it receives its truth from the Creator. We have forgotten this connexion. When we have number we believe we have truth and eternity. We become aware of this loss when we realize that mathematics too in the last resort does not transcend the world of the paradox. The end of godless calculation is in paradox, in contradiction. So it is for us. In the middle we hear of the world's beginning, as also in the middle we know of the fixed and of number, and not otherwise. But just in this way the world of the fixed is revealed to us anew in its essential being. Because we no longer understand number in its primary meaning we no longer understand the language of the fixed world. What we comprehend is the godless language we speak ourselves, the language of an eternal law of the world resting in itself, silent about the Creator and boasting about the creature. But when we hear of the Creator who in the beginning created the world we know of the lost connexion and believe in God as the Creator, without grasping how he rules over the world of the fixed, without seeing the world of the fixed, the world of number, in its true creatureliness. So we do not see the world of the fixed, of the unchangeable in its original state - the law has become autonomous - but we believe in God as its Creator.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, Temptation: Two Biblical Studies

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If any one attempted to rule the world by the Gospel, and put aside all secular law and the secular sword, on the plea that all are baptised and Christian, and that according to the Gospel, there is to be among them neither law nor sword, nor necessity for either, pray, what would happen? He would loose the bands and chains of the wild and savage beasts, and let them tear and mangle every one, and at the same time say they were quite tame and gentle creatures; but I would have the proof in my wounds.
-- Martin Luther in Secular Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed in John Dillenberger, Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

There are very many who, when they hear of this freedom of faith, immediately turn it into an occasion for the flesh and think that now all things are allowed them. They want to show that they are free men and Christians only by despising and finding fault with ceremonies, traditions, and human laws; as if they were Christians because on stated days they do not fast or eat meat when others fast, or because they do not use the accustomed prayers, and with upturned nose scoff at the precepts of men, although they utterly disregard all else that pertains to the Christian religion. The extreme opposite of these are those who rely for their salvation solely on the reverent observance of ceremonies, as if they would be saved because on certain days they fast or abstain from meats, or pray certain prayers; these make a boast of the precepts of the church and of the fathers, and do not care a fig for the things which are of the essence of our faith. Plainly, both are in error because they neglect the weightier things which are necessary to salvation, and quarrel so noisily about trifling and unnecessary matters.
-- Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian in John Dillenburger, ed., Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Now we have said before, that the law in a Christian ought not to pass his bounds, but ought to have dominion only over the flesh, which is in subjection unto it, and remaineth under the same. When it is thus, the law is kept within his bounds. But if it shall presume to creep into thy conscience, and there seek to reign, see though play the cunning logician, and make the true division. Give no more to the law than belongest unto it, but say thou: 'O law, thou wouldest climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reign to reprove it of sin, and wouldest take from me the joy of my heart, which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation, that I might be without all hope, and utterly perish. This thou doest besides thine office: keep thyself within thy bounds, and exercise thy power upon the flesh, but touch not my conscience; for I am baptized, and by the Gospel am called to the partaking of righteousness and of everlasting life, to the kingdom of Christ, wherein my conscience is at rest, where no law is, but altogether forgiveness of sins, peace, quietness, joy, health and everlasting life. Trouble me not in these matters, for I will not suffer thee, so intolerable a tyrant and cruel a tormentor, to reign in my conscience, for it is the seat and temple of Christ the Son of God, who is the king of righteousness and peace, and my most sweet saviour and mediator: he shall keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound and pure doctrine of the Gospel, and in the knowledge of this passive and heavenly righteousness.'"

-- Martin Luther in the Introduction to his A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians as printed in John Dillenberger's Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings.
Private individuals with their own cases are of three kinds. First, there are those who seek vengeance and judgment from the representatives of God, and of these there is now a very great number. Paul tolerates such people, but he dos not approve of them [...]. Nevertheless such will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they have changed for the better by forsaking things that are merely lawful and pursuing those that are helpful. For that passion for one's own advantage must be destroyed.

In the second class are those who do not desire vengeance. On the other hand, in accordance with the Gospel [Matt. 5:40], to those who would take their coats, they are prepared to give their cloaks as well, and they do not resist any evil. [...]

In the third class are those who in persuasion are like the second type just mentioned, but are not like them in practice. They are the ones who demand back their own property or seek punishment to be meted out, not because they seek their own advantage, but through the punishment and restoration of their own things they seek the betterment of the one who has stolen or offended. They discern that the offender cannot be improved without punishment. These are called "zealots" and the Scriptures praise them. But no one ought to attempt this unless he is mature and highly experienced in the second class just mentioned, lest he mistake wrath for zeal and be convicted of doing from anger and impatience that which he believes he is doing from love of justice.

-- Martin Luther in a sermon on the "two kinds of righteousness", likely delivered in 1519. Quoted from John Dillenberger's Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, 94-5. Emphasis is mine.