Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Observations on Luther

This year being the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, I have turned my attention to Luther’s 95 Theses, which got it all started.

I just read them for the first time, and they are not what I expected.  They are statements and in some ways, pointed questions directed at the Pope mostly about indulgences. The list is not a full attack on Catholic theology, but almost entirely on the indulgences.  He accepts the office of Pope as valid (at least at this point in time) but not the actions of this one.

Although these 95 Theses are the foundation of the Protestant church, they are not a completed theology, either.  I think he was trying to start a fight, which he sure did, and which I am glad about.

That is not to say these go without scrutiny, only that he got something started, thankfully.  And I was a huge Luther fan until I heard how anti-semitic he was, and read it for myself, so he’s problematic, to say the least.  But as to the Theses . . .  

The first states, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Well, it sounds good, but repentance means you have something to repent of, and I think God would prefer we not have to repent constantly, because that would mean we are sinning constantly.  On one hand, this seems like a morbid preoccupation with disobedience, which is no way to live for God.  But I get his drift.  People being what we are, we sin a lot and therefore need to repent, a lot. 

We need constant recalibration, which I think is a good way to think about repentance.  That way we can keep from beating ourselves over the head with it.  The path we are on, we get off of.  Most of us have been fussed at by our GPS’s for taking a wrong turn.  “Recalibrating” or “rerouting,” says our devices’ Siri voices. 

I recalibrate every morning.  Actually more than that.  The only thing is that I wish we could not just look at where we got off the route, but remember and enjoy where we stayed on the route.  In my doctoral dissertation research, I found that the propensity for teachers’ using reflection was to say, “I thought about what went wrong.”  I also found that a lot of them didn’t reflect much, but if all reflection was about was going over the wrong, who would want to reflect? 

Let us repent, but let us rejoice and reflect and reconsider and refresh ourselves.  

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