Luther’s Papists as the Crucible for Becoming a Theologian of the Word

In Luther’s Works, vol. 34 in “Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings” Luther writes the following in regard to the role that the devil and his minions play in the formation of becoming a good theologian, particularly as that is understood through persecution and suffering in the context of being a theologian of the Word:

Thirdly, there is tentatio, Anfechtung. This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.

Thus you see how David, in the Psalm mentioned, complains so often about all kinds of enemies, arrogant princes or tyrants, false spirits and factions, whom he must tolerate because he meditates, that is, because he is occupied with God’s Word (as has been said) in all manner of ways. For as soon as God’s Word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you, and will make a real doctor of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s Word. I myself (if you will permit me, mere mouse-dirt, to be mingled with pepper) am deeply indebted to my papists that through the devil’s raging they have beaten, oppressed, and distressed me so much. That is to say, they have made a fairly good theologian of me, which I would not have become otherwise. And I heartily grant them what they have won in return for making this of me, honor, victory, and triumph, for that’s the way they wanted it.

Trial and tribulation cause us to rely on the One who raises the dead; as the Apostle Paul underscores in II Corinthians 1. Luther understood the role that crisis has, no matter what the external source, in regard to the forming of a Christian theologian who is reliant upon the Word of God rather than the words of men. Theologia crucis is ever present in the thought of Luther, which is why I will always remain one of his fans and students. Soli Deo Gloria

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