According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Reformation's True Beginnings Began with Luther's "Tower Experience"

Martin Luther's Tower Experience
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Tower of the Augustinian monastery where Luther had his study.
In the minds of many, the Reformation began not when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door, but when he rediscovered and believed the Biblical Gospel.

This discovery is often called Luther's "Tower Experience," because in one of his "table talks" he mentions that he was studying Romans 1:17 ("He who through faith is righteous shall live") in the heated room (his study) of the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg when the light broke upon him. (The Black Cloister was the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits, and later, when all the monks had voluntarily left, it was Luther's home).

Luther makes it clear in several places that this, not the Theses, was the pivotal event of his life. The most important of these appears in his Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Writings of 1545. Several other mentions of the event are recorded from his "Table Talks," one from 1532 (LW 54:193-194), one from 1538 (LW 54:308-309), and one from 1542-43 (LW 54:442-443).

When we examine the above mentioned texts, and especially the 1545 Preface, the following observations beg to be made.

(1) Luther's conversion and breakthrough involved the correct understanding of God's righteousness. The phrase "[in the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed" (Romans 1:17) had become the focal point of his struggle with God. Luther had long struggled to blamelessly keep God's Law in order to become righteous. He knew that this is what God demanded of him and all people. Time and again he failed to keep God's Law and achieve the righteousness that God demanded.

Luther's struggle with God came to a head as he was wrestling with this Romans 1:17. He tells us that he was extremely zealous to understand Romans but that this phrase about God's righteousness stood in the way. This phrase, which to us is so clearly good news, was for Luther bad news.

Why? Because the phrase "the righteousness of God" like most Biblical terms (e.g., grace, faith, justification, etc.) had been reinterpreted by scholastic theologians of the high and late Middle Ages 1100-1500 A.D. (esp. Gabriel Biel, Duns Scotus, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinus) to support a theology of Law and works. For centuries the Church had taught that the righteousness of God was God's active, personal righteousness or justice by which he punishes the unrighteous sinner.

This, Luther informs us, is what he had learned. Therefore whenever he came across the phrase "the righteousness of God" in Scripture, it terrified him ("struck my conscience like lightning," "was like a thunderbolt in my heart") because he knew that he was an unrighteous sinner who fell far short of God's righteous (perfect) demands.

Even worse, Rom. 1:17, filled Luther with anger and hatred toward God. "I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners." Is it not enough, Luther tells us he murmured, that God crushes us miserable sinners with His law, that He has to threaten us with punishment through the Gospel, too?

After meditating day and night, finally the breakthrough came when Luther gave heed to the words at the end of 1:17, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Then he realized that the verse was not talking about the active righteousness that God demands, but the passive righteousness that He freely gives to those who believe the Gospel. The sinner is justified (declared righteous) by God through faith in the work and death of Jesus, not by our work or keeping of the Law. Put another way, the sinner is justified by receiving (faith) rather than achieving (works). Later Luther would say that we are saved by the alien righteousness of Christ, not by a righteousness of our own doing.

(2) The tower experience, according to Luther was a conversion experience. When he had discovered that God gives His righteousness as a gift in Christ, he felt that he "was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates . . . that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise." Now his conscience was at rest, now he was certain of his salvation. Before there had been only unrest and uncertainty.

How did Luther now feel about the word "righteousness of God"? "I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word `righteousness of God.' Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise." Thus fortified and converted by the Gospel, Luther was now a ready instrument to be used by God for reformation!

For More Information on Martin Luther

Luther nailing his 95 theses to the Roman Catholic doors

Martin Luther at his Monastary

Martin Luther's 95 Theses

"Luther Before the Diet of Worms."
Photogravure based on the painting by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)

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