Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Luther Against the Devil

The following is from an interesting article by Heiko Oberman entitled Luther Against the Devil.  The devil continues to prowl around, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him--firm in your faith.
Luther’s autobiography, which appeared in 1545 as the preface to the first edition of his Latin works, has been the subject of exhaustive scholarly research. Nonetheless, Luther is not yet heard out, and his urgent admonition and warning has been missed: "Reader, be commended to God, and pray for the increase of preaching against Satan. For he is powerful and wicked, today more dangerous than ever before because he knows that he has only a short time left to rage."

"Today" means that Luther not only discovered the gospel but also roused the Devil, who is now raging terribly and gaining an unprecedented power of absolutely new satanic proportions.

This is no longer the Devil who, in a triple alliance with "sin" and "world," seduces the voluptuous flesh of man against his better "self." The medieval poltergeist is virtually harmless in comparison with this adversary, who, armed with fire and sword, spiritual temptations and clever arguments, has now risen up against God to prevent the preaching of the gospel. As long as the righteous God resides far away in Heaven, waiting for the end of the world, the Devil, too, will remain at the edge of world history. But the closer the Righteous One comes to us on earth through our belief in Christ, the closer the Devil draws, feeling challenged to take historically effective countermeasures. The Reformation symbol of Christ’s presence is not the halo of the saint, but the hatred of the Devil.

Transforming Luther into a forerunner of enlightenment means dismissing this warning of the Devil’s growing superiority as a remnant of the Dark Ages. But that would be to deprive Luther’s life of the experience of the Devil’s power, which affected him as intensely as Christ’s. Take away the Devil and we are left with the Protestant citadel, the "better self," the conscience...

...Where the gospel is preached and bears fruit, the Devil is there to get in the way --that is his nature, "today" more than ever! Fear of the Devil does not fit in with our modern era, for belief in the Devil has been exorcised by attractive ideologies. But in the process our grasp of the unity of man has been lost: living with the real Christ in one’s faith means being a whole person as opposed to an intellect that subscribes to a mere idea of Christ.

The Devil will readily help theologians to "elevate" the zealous, fighting, wrathful, loving God of Israel into the philosophical concept of an "Omnipotent Being."

For Luther the disembodiment of God into an impressive "idea" is one of the Devil’s decisive misdeeds. Satan may be no doctor of theology, but he is very well trained in philosophy and has had nearly 6,000 years to practice his craft. All the encouraging victories of God which occur prior to the Last Judgment melt under the Devil’s glare. Arguments are of no help against the Devil; only Christ can come to our aid. Satan’s wisdom is thwarted by the statement "the just shall live by faith" -- faith not in an idea but in a God who, under the banner of the cross, is fighting for a world the Devil, too, is trying to conquer. Satan’s power is not unlimited; he must stay within specified bounds, but until doomsday they encompass the whole world.
See also How Luther Dealt with the Devil.


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