Church History

Reformation + Polka Music = Weird Comedy

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Philip Schaff, Explaining the 2 Sides of History

The Sunday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is all about quotes. No commentary from me, no reflection, etc. Just a provocative or informative quote from a saint in church history.

Image result for philip schaff“History has two sides, a divine and a human. On the part of God, it is his revelation in the order of time (as the creation is his revelation in the order of space), and the successive unfolding of a plan of infinite wisdom, justice, and mercy, looking to his glory and the eternal happiness of mankind. On the part of man, history is the biography of the human race, and the gradual development, both normal and abnormal, of all its physical, intellectual, and moral forces to the final consummation at the general judgment, with its eternal rewards and punishments. … A view of history which overlooks or undervalues the divine factor starts from deism and consistently runs into atheism; while the opposite view, which overlooks the free agency of man and his moral responsibility and guilt, is essentially fatalistic and pantheistic.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 1, page 1)

 

 

Martin Luther: His Trip to Rome (1510)

2017 marks the 500-year anniversary of the launch of the Reformation. Martin Luther is credited for being the leader of the movement that effectively created the Protestant sect of Christianity. Today is the last post in this series on the life of Martin Luther. It is one of many special series I plan to share during 2017 to commemorate this fantastic series of events that led to separation from the Roman Catholic Church.

luther-rome

Martin Luther went to Rome in 1510. He had high expectations for his visit to Rome. When he arrived, he fell to the earth, raised his hands and said, “Hail to thee, holy Rome! Thrice holy for the blood of the martyrs shed here.” Luther wanted a spiritual experience; so he visited the graves of forty-six popes and the cemeteries of 80,000 martyr’s bones.

When good Catholic monks visited Rome, they would often visit a place called Scala Sancta, which means “holy stairs” in the Latin. According to the Christian tradition, these were the very steps that led up to the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, which Jesus Christ stood on during his Passion on his way to trial. The stairs were said to be brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th Century. They consisted of twenty-eight white marble steps, now encased by wood. They are located next to a church which was built on ground brought from Mount Calvary.

The Catholic Church taught that by ascending these steps on your knees in an appropriate fashion, you can buy an indulgence for someone in purgatory. If you ascended each step reciting “Our Father” (Pater Noster), you could release a soul from purgatory. Luther wanted to free his grandfather – Lindemann Luther – from purgatory.

While Luther was climbing the stairs on his knees, he thought he heard a voice of thunder which cried at the bottom of his heart, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ He was said to rise up in amazement from the steps and began to feel personal horror and shame. He – as legend says – proclaimed “The just shall live by faith!”

Luther wrote later of this experience:

“Although I was a holy and irreproachable monk, my conscience was full of trouble and anguish. I could not bear the words, ‘Justice of God.’ I loved not the just and holy God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret rage against him, and hated him, because, not satisfied with terrifying his miserable creatures, already lost by original sin, with his law and the miseries of life, he still further increased our torment by the gospel. . . . But when, by the Spirit of God, I comprehended these words; when I learned how the sinner’s justification proceeds from the pure mercy of the Lord by means of faith, then I felt myself revived like a new man, and entered at open doors into the very paradise of God.

“From that time, also, I beheld the precious sacred volume with new eyes. I went over all the Bible, and collected a great number of passages which taught me what the work of God was. And as I had previously, with all my heart, hated the words, ‘Justice of God,’ so from that time I began to esteem and love them, as words most sweet and most consoling. In truth, these words were to me the true gate of paradise.”

Luther began to turn his back on the Church and Rome itself. He once wrote,

“Where God build a church, the Devil puts up a chapel next door. … It is almost incredible. What infamous actions are committed at Rome; one would require to see it and hear it in order to believe it. It is an ordinary saying that if there is a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from whence all sins proceed. … Rome, once the holiest city, was now the worst. Let me get out of this terrible dungeon. I took onions to Rome and brought back garlic.”

So Luther’s visit to Rome was a great disappointment. What he found was a corrupt Church.

And about seven years later (in 1517), or 500 years ago this October, Luther would nail his protest to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany and thus launch the most important extra-biblical event in all of history – the Reformation.

Martin Luther: the First Mass (1507)

2017 marks the 500-year anniversary of the launch of the Reformation. Martin Luther is credited for being the leader of the movement that effectively created the Protestant sect of Christianity. This week, I will be posting blurbs on the life of Martin Luther. It is one of many special series I plan to share during 2017 to commemorate this fantastic series of events that led to separation from the Roman Catholic Church.

In April of 1507, Martin Luther was ordained as a priest, and about one month later, Luther was assigned his 1st Mass.

To the church at this time, the Mass was a focal point of the Church’s means of grace. The sacrifice of Calvary was re-enacted as Catholics believed in transubstantiation (which is the belief that the elements of bread and wine supernaturally transform into the actual body and blood of Christ).

luther-and-massMartin’s father had finally come to accept his son as a monk and was invited to attend. His father came, along with twenty companions, and was so enthused by the occasion-to-be that he made a rather large donation to the Erfurt Monastery, which was considered a highly pious act and one of the reasons monasteries were wealthy estates).

The occasion was anything but celebratory. It was a climactic moment in the life of Luther and his haunting of sin in his life.

As Luther approached the altar to begin the service, he became paralyzed with fear and historians record that he recited the following words, “We offer unto thee, the living, the true, the eternal God.”

He later wrote about this experience:

“At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, ‘With what tongue shall I address such Majesty, seeing that all men ought to tremble in the presence of even an earthly prince? Who am I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty? The angels surround Him. At his nod the earth trembles. And shall a miserable little pigmy say, ‘I want this, I ask for that’? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living eternal and the true God.”

It is an understatement to say Luther was uncomfortable moving forward with the Mass.

The key phrase in that quote is “For I am dust and ashes full of sin.” The word Luther used to describe that experience was Anfechtung, which means “inner turmoil” or “temptation.” Luther thought of this moment as a trial sent by God to test and assault him. Terrifying experiences like this gave Luther a new pursuit to becoming personally holy.

Then game his trip to Rome a few years later, which we will cover in tomorrow’s post.

Martin Luther: His Confessions and Battle Against Sin

2017 marks the 500-year anniversary of the launch of the Reformation. Martin Luther is credited for being the leader of the movement that effectively created the Protestant sect of Christianity. This week, I will be posting blurbs on the life of Martin Luther. It is one of many special series I plan to share during 2017 to commemorate this fantastic series of events that led to separation from the Roman Catholic Church.

Confession in the monastery as a regular discipline was rarely encouraged, but, for Luther, confession was a daily discipline. Sometimes he confessed for as long as six hours at a time! He took it to the highest extreme.

Luther asked on one occasion, “Love God? Sometimes I hate Him.” How could someone say such a thing? Well, only someone tormented by their sin could come to such a conclusion.

Luther confessed for hours. He would review the Ten Commandments and seven deadly sins and would exclaim,

“Man, God is not angry with you. You are angry with God. Don’t you know that God commands you to hope?”

He also says later that at this time the greatest Scriptural fear he had was breaking the 1st Commandment – “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:3). He would also review the Sermon on the Mount and question whether he could faithfully live according to it’s principles. He was also haunted by the scenes of judgment in the Book of Revelation.

R.C. Sproul explains,

“Confession was a regular part of monastic life. The other brothers came regularly to their confessors and said, ‘Father, I have sinned. Last night I stayed up after ‘lights out’ and read my Bible with a candle.’ Or, ‘Yesterday at lunchtime I coveted Brother Philip’s potato salad.’ (How much trouble can a monk get into in a monastery?) The father Confessor would hear the confession, grant priestly absolution, and assign a small penance to be performed. That was it. The whole transaction took only a few minutes. Not so with Brother Luther. He was driving his Father Confessor to distraction. Luther was not satisfied with a brief recitation of his sins. He wanted to make sure that no sin in his life was left unconfessed. He entered the confessional and stayed for hours every day.”[1]

Luther’s reason for confession was because of his fright about God’s judgment. He lived in daily fear of the immediate judgment of God on his life. He said on one occasion, “If I could believe that God was not angry with me, I would stand on my head for joy.”[2] He became more distressed with the enormity of his own sins and his inability to satisfy a righteous God.

luther-martin-3He confessed every sin. Luther hated his sin. In fact, because of his obsession with confession, Luther was even deemed crazy. Some monks believed he had deep sexual struggles, because only that sin would bother a monk so much that he would confess as much as he did. The monks thought Luther was on the verge of a psychotic episode or breakdown. They called him “a goldbricker,” which was a reference to the fact that sometimes he would neglect his chores and replace that time with confessing sins. A “goldbricker” was someone who cheated an expected task in order to gain something somewhere else. Luther was a crazed “goldbricker.”

His heavy doses of confession caused physical pain and suffering. He developed digestive difficulties (e.g., kidney and gall stones) due to the anxiety caused by his battling sin.

No particular sins distressed him. It was his overall corrupt nature –

“What can I do to win a gracious God? Oh my sin, my sin, what shall I do with my sin?”

Luther was committed to the act of penance – which is “a means of grace whereby the sinner would confess all wrongdoing and seek absolution.” Luther believed that without confession, the Devil would devour him.

As a result of this distress, the leader of the monastery Johan Staupitz counseled Luther to set aside his theological books and study the Bible. Staupitz began to teach Luther that “true repentance consists not in self-imposed penances and punishments, but in a change of heart.”

This all climaxed in 1507 at his first mass, and we will consider that in tomorrow’s blog post.

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[1] The Holiness of God, pgs. 128-129.

[2] Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, pg. 315.