“In Defense of Rob Bell” by Martin Luther

Note from the blog-master

Just to be clear: I don’t think that, in some tautological way, because of the fact that Luther opened the road for–how should I say it?–a new outpouring of the spirit?—just because he kicked off the Reformation, that doesn’t mean for me that every word that comes out of his mouth is ‘true’ or that anything he says automatically has some kind of divinely objective authority.  Luther changed his mind a lot during his life.  He did some amazing things, said some amazing things; did some things that were absolutely horrible, and said some things that were even worse, and had some horrible consequences.

I want to share with you below some of the things that he said that gel well with some of the things that Rob Bell has said in his recent book.  Rob Bell is telling the God’s-Honest-Truth when he says that the ideas he’s framing up in his book aren’t new and they’re not coming out of nowhere.

What is more curious than anything that he’s said in his book is the fact that all sorts of people who ought to know better are pretending that they don’t know that this is nothing new, that this is a valid perspective in the Christian orthodox schema for thinking about reality.  They apparently think that fear is better at driving enrollment and creating loyalty than love, and that their tactics are threatened by the fact that Bell is leveraging the latter rather than the former.  Since his thought is available to geographically and culturally distant congregations at a new level thanks to our contemporary media environment, some people feel all the more threatened: thus, the response we’ve been seeing “Compete or die.”  That’s the American way, and I’m afraid its the way of dominate elements in the American church.

Their point of view may be valid and defensible (fear is quite often a more effective organizing tool than love) but I guess I think its a sick way to live, and so do a lot of other people that have left the church or refuse to step foot in a church because they’re turned off by this emphasis.

After you’ve read through the Luther quotes, I’ll include some of my own notes and thoughts in the next few posts.


God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future.

-Martin Luther’s letter to Hanseu Von Rechenberg, 1522

Conversion of the Jews will be the work of God alone operating from within, and not of man working — or rather playing — from without.

-Martin Luther in a letter to Rev. Spalatin, 1514

If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian. They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property. When they baptize them they show them nothing of Christian doctrine or life, but only subject them to popishness and mockery…If the apostles, who also were Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the Gentiles … When we are inclined to boast of our position [as Christians] we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord. Therefore, if one is to boast of flesh and blood the Jews are actually nearer to Christ than we are…If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by papal law but by the law of Christian love. We must receive them cordially, and permit them to trade and work with us, that they may have occasion and opportunity to associate with us, hear our Christian teaching, and witness our Christian life. If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians either.

-Martin Luther “That Jesus Was Born a Jew”, 1523

…Eighth, hell also looms so large because of undue scrutiny and stern thought devoted to it out of season.  This is increased immeasurably by our ignorance of God’s counsel.  The evil spirit prods the soul so that it burdens itself with all kinds of useless presumptions, especially with the most dangerous undertaking of delving into the mystery of God’s will to ascertain whether one is “chosen” or not.

Here the devil practices his ultimate, greatest and most cunning art and power.  By this, he sets man above God, insofar as man seeks signs of God’s will and becomes impatient because he is not supposed to know whether he is among the elect.  Man looks with suspicion upon God, so that he soon desires a different God.  In brief, the devil is determined to blast God’s love from a man’s mind and to arouse thoughts of God’s wrath.  The more docilely man follows the devil and accepts these thoughts, the more imperiled his position is.  In the end he cannot save himself, and he falls prey to hatred and blasphemy of God.  What is my desire to know whether I am chosen other than a presumption to know all that God knows and to be equal with him so that he will know no more than I do?  Thus God is no longer God with a knowledge surpassing mine.  Then the devil reminds us of the many heathen…and Christians who are lost, agitiating such dangerous and pernicious thoughts so violently that man, who would otherwise gladly die, now becomes loath to to depart this life.  When man is assailed by thoughts regarding his election, he is being assailed by hell, as the psalms lament so much.  He who surmounts this temptation has vanquished sin, hell and death all in one…

…Fourteenth, beyond all this he not only defeated sin, death, and hell in himself and offered victory to our faith, but for our further comfort he himself suffered and overcame the temptation which these pictures entail for us.  He was assailed by images of death, sin and hell just as we are….  He describes the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 19[4-44] saying, that the city’s enemies will surround it with such devastation as to cut off escape–that is death.  Furthermore, he says that its enemies will terrify its inhabitants and drive them hither and yon so that they will not know where to turn–that is sin.  In the third place, he says that the foe will dash them to the ground and not leave one stone upon another–that is hell and despair…

….Seventeenth we must that he who receives the sacraments has a great advantage, for he has received a sign and a promise from God with which he can exercise and strengthen his belief that he has been called into Christ’s image and to his benefits.  The others who must do without these signs labor solely in faith and must obtain these benefits with the desires of their hearts.

-Martin Luther, from “A Sermon on Preparing To Die”