Martin Luther, that old provocative scoundrel

From the Internet Monk:

“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” -Martin Luther

…Since encouraging people to try and not sin is a major occupation of confused evangelicalism, Luther sounds strange. But it’s clear what he means: we can’t get caught in the trap of trying to generate our own righteousness, even in the name of obedience. Luther’s encouragement to sin just to spite the devil is his provocative way of suggesting a Christian TRUST CHRIST and have confidence in justification by faith. So much so, that instead of living in a state of perpetual self-examination, we live with the freedom to be less than perfect.

Isn’t sinning intentionally a really bad thing? A Christian’s attitude toward sin must be based on a thorough acceptance of the fact that our depravity isn’t going to be erased by efforts. Even our righteousness and obedience are thoroughly tainted with sin. Luther says we need to take the sting out of the devil’s condemnation with a willingness to be human, and rejoice that God loves us and Christ died for us.

Let Luther bother you a bit. Particularly if you are starting to get miserable in this Christian life, and wonder where the laughter and honesty are among Christians. We can find it again, but it comes with embracing justification by faith existentially, and not just as a doctrine.  (link to the whole post)

I’m not trying to start an argument here and I don’t feel like getting into one, I just thought this was an interesting notion.  Partly, I suppose, because it does sound strange to me.  (But then “resurrection” sounds strange, too, doesn’t it?)

Here’s another zinger from Luther, relating to something we discussed here not too long ago.  This one via Phil:

 “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused.  Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit and abolish women? The sun, the moon, and the stars have been worshiped.  Shall we then pluck them out of the sky?”

– Martin Luther

I suppose I could do worse than read some of Luther’s works…

10 thoughts on “Martin Luther, that old provocative scoundrel

  1. Toni

    Luther also didn’t have a problem persecuting other christians with a slightly different take on faith from his. So maybe I’ll not worry too much about what he says if it doesn’t line up too well with what I believe to be true. Or maybe the concept of not trying to be righteous in our own strength doesn’t translate too well from old German to modern English using what may have been appropriate colloquialisms at the time.

    The last quote is interesting, in that certain faiths have almost literally tried to abolish both wine AND women. All in the *name* of preventing sin.

    You could do worse, true. I wish it were easier to comment here without sounding contentious and argumentative.

  2. Marc

    Toni: I thought a similar thing when I read the first quote, that there seemed to be an incongruity between what I read there and what I had heard elsewhere–a tension between apparent grace in his practice and judgment for those who disagree.

    I don’t know much about Luther and thought perhaps I was wrong. I’ve read that Calvin persecuted and maybe I just lumped Luther in with the whole Reformers group. Or maybe Luther was a persecutor.

    That said, I tend to think that just because I disagree with someone on this or that idea, isn’t grounds to dismiss them entirely. Not only that, but by aligning ourselves with the churches that we do (i.e. Protestant) we implicitly attach a great deal of importance to what Luther has to say.

    Now I’m sounding argumentative. I’m not saying “Yea” or “Nay” to what he says, but simply that it’s an interesting thought.

  3. Toni

    I rather like the sound of going off and sinning a bit because I can sure feel the devil tempting me right now. Marc – thank you, That’s all the license I need.


    I can just say “The Vanderman made me do it!”

  4. Dixie

    It’s funny because when I read this post I thought it was exactly like the post I’d written the night before (, except Marc put it forward in a “Marc” way.

    To me, the point of it is not being afraid of our sin because when we are so bound and afraid of it we’re missing the power of God’s grace.

    The point is not that we go and sin, the point is that we rid ourselves of the power that sin has over us.

    Does that make any sense?

  5. Toni

    I think you probably did Dixie.

    Can I be honest with you – I’ve stopped reading longer posts on your blog as my eyes can’t cope with the colours now my vision has deteriorated. All the letters run together and dance in my vision. It’s still acceptable with dark text on a light background, but I can’t hack it the other way round. Maybe I need to zoom in a bit?

  6. Dixie

    Okay, but it’s a “Marc way” of presenting the material.

    And I’ll see what I can do to make it more readable, Toni, without going to an all-white Randall format. 🙂

  7. Andrew

    I like those quotes. Good stuff. It makes me think of “humility is not thinking less about yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less” (I don’t know who to hattip on that).

    The refomers were fascinating characters, much more complex and conflicted than the sanitized and anachronistic portraits painted by evangelicalism. These were not “nice” people by our standards.

    I’m not sure it’s accurate however to say that either Luther or Calvin actively persecuted other christians – certainly their writings were used to justify such actions but whether they themselves were supportive of this is questionable.

  8. Toni

    Dixie – can I modify my comment about reading your blog? It is only difficult to read when viewed on a Mac, which blurs and smears fonts. On a Windows machine it is OK. I am experimenting with different default screen fonts to try to help this.

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