(Part 1. Guidance in the Pentateuch: Rereading Moses with Luther)
“Inspiration, authority, and guidance – how does God lead today?” There are many opinions concerning this topic both within and outside the Christian church. The lectures on the planned conference were to address the issue from a number of different perspectives.” Rev. Dr. Alfsvåg´s assignment for me was to work on „Guidance in the Pentateuch” and as the conference fell flatt, I invite You to re-read Moses with me from a Lutheran perspective.
We start off with the prayer:
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.Psalm 143,10
We remember God´s command and clear apostolic and prophetic witness
God commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that Jesus Christ is the one whom He appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Jesus Christ that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.Acts 10,42f
As we confess the one, who is the be all and end all of our, the churches and everybody´s and everything´s being
„Nicht das Bekennen, sondern das Bekannte oder zu Bekennende, nicht den Glauben, sondern das Geglaubte oder zu Glaubende, nicht die Liebe, sondern den Geliebten, aus dessen Liebe alle Liebe herkommt hat die Kirche zu ihrem Grunde.“Franz Delitzsch, „Vier Bücher von der Kirche“ 1847, Buch III, Ziffer 7, S.122 zitiert nach Werner Elert „Die Kirche und ihre Dogmengeschichte, S.317.
DIY: Building Your life & stairway to heaven
From tender childhood guidance in the sense of life orientation is part of all sorts of didactics and pedagogy. To do it oneself is a sign of being grown-up, self-sufficient, autarch and independent. Traditional roots of classical Greek philosophy reveal this liberating streak promoting eventual autonomy both in comedy and tragedy – revealing issues of freedom, limited choice and even determinism in a more or less popular fashion still very much in a divine framework. Luther takes up significant clues and markers from Homer/Vergil (Illias and Odyssey) in his last words. Bayer notes:
Er (Martin Luther) lebt in der Erfahrungsfülle der Bibel. Läßt der Poet und Poetologe Luther … die Bibel zur Aeneis (Hervorhebung WW) werden, dann zeigt er sie uns als dramatisches Epos, als Erfahrungsbuch. Es bewahrt erlittene und erstrittene Erfahrungen, zu Texten geworden, so auf, daß diese Texte wiederum dieselben Erfahrungen in neuen Zusammenhängen konstituieren. Angesichts der Fülle dessen, was die Texte der >heiligen Schrifen< nicht nur zu >erkennen<, sondern – weit darüber hinaus: alles Erkennen umfassend und durchdringend – aus ihrem >Saft und Mark< zu >schmecken< geben, kann ich nur meine eigene Verstehensunfähigkeit bekennen. (Bayer S.288)Bayer, Oswald. 1999. „Das letzte Wort: die göttliche Aeneis“ in “Gott als Autor. Zu einer poietologischen Theologie.” Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen. Pg.288
The disillusioned Boethius finds guidance in the consolations of philosophy even if from imprisonment and banishment it sounds much like the fatalistic “amor fati” taken further by Baruch Spinoza and then to elaborate depth by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Traditional religions know the crucial value of guidance at a young age even if it encompasses life-long teaching at which Luther points us on his deathbed. It is the old mantra of these traditional pagan religions, that Karma and the rule of life determine all, so that what goes around comes around. Act up decently and You will be treated accordingly, appropriately and in the end decently. Essential work righteousness according to the book – and the laws of this world.
Karma comes after everyone eventually. You can’t get away with screwing people over your whole life, I don’t care who you are. What goes around comes around. That’s how it works. Sooner or later the universe will serve you the revenge that you deserve.Jessica Brody
It´s behind the golden rule of doing to others, as they should to you in the sense of “do et des” – “I wash Your hand and You mine!” (Tun-Ergehen-Komplex), for the benefit of both.
“As you sow, you shall reap” (suum cuique) is the law of karma based on the laws of cause and effect. … Whether we act honestly, dishonestly, help or hurt others, it all gets recorded and manifests as a karmic reaction either in this life or a future life.
Old Clint Eastwood objects rightly against this orderly setup, when he quips very much in line with “Justification by faith” (sola fide):
Deserves got nothing to do with it!Unforgiven
Of course, the old monks thought they knew better. The ancient Benedictine option for monastic isolation from the impudence, pervasive impurity, and general imperfection of the sinful world convinced Francis of Assisi, Amish/Hutterers and perhaps some of the growing number of homeschoolers. Others promote “Sharia Law” – erecting God´s kingdom here on earth by force if necessary. It´s the calling, duty and passion of the faithful: ISIS, Taliban, crusaders, power crazy papacies, “orthodox” theocracies in Constantinople & Moscow, Zürich, Münster & Philadelphia to name but a few. The wise bishop Bo Giertz knew all about it, when he wrote about this thrilling contest: “The Knights of Rhodes“. The kingdom of God and His righteousness is not for us to behold in this world. Rather, the glories of papacy, Islam and other theocracies will far outshine the humble and much maligned mistress of our Lord. We don´t believe in her nor any of His followers, but solus Christus – and that by faith only.
Our Confession concludes on issues of the free will:
Concerning free will it is taught that a human being has some measure of free will, so as to live an externally honorable life and to choose among the things reason comprehends. However, without the grace, help, and operation of the Holy Spirit a human being cannot become pleasing to God, fear or believe in God with the whole heart, or expel innate evil lusts from the heart. Instead, this happens through the Holy Spirit, who is given through the Word of God. For Paul says (1 Cor. 2[:14*]): “Those who are natural do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit.
In order that it may be recognized that nothing new is taught here, these are the clear words of Augustine concerning free will, quoted here from the third book of the Hypognosticon: “We confess that there is a free will in all human beings. For all have a natural, innate mind and reason—not that they can act in matters pertaining to God, such as loving or fearing God with their whole heart—but they do have the freedom to choose good or evil only in the external works of this life. By ‘good’ I mean what can be done by nature: whether to work in the field or not, whether to eat and drink, whether to visit a friend or not, to dress or undress, to build a home, to marry, to engage in a trade, and to do whatever may be useful and good. To be sure, all of this neither exists nor endures without God, but everything is from him and through him. On the other hand, a human being can by personal choice do evil, such as to kneel before an idol, commit murder, and the like. Rejected here are those who teach that we can keep the commandments of God without grace and the Holy Spirit. For although we are by nature able to do the external works of the commandments, yet we cannot do the supreme commandments in the heart, namely, truly to fear, love, and believe in God.Augsburg Confession XVIII
During the so-called “Enlightenment” Immanuel Kant stressed the necessity of using ones one intellect: “Sapere aude!” This promoted the “coming-of-age”-stories of people, who were learning to use their own mind and to determine their own destiny. This narrative dominated our humanistic curricula. Here just a few examples
- Goethe: „Faust. Eine Tragödie“ & „Wilhelm Meister´s Lehrjahre“
- Lessing: „Nathan der Weise“
- Hesse: „Siddhartha“
Obviously this is far removed from the biblical approach – and conversely Luther´s concept of guidance, learning and life-long-dependance on the Holy Spirit, who alone calls to Jesus Christ, binds to Him and keeps with and in Him. But in secularity following enlightenment, it became fashionable and an outspoken goal of not only Science, but of all human endeavor to deal with daily life “as if there is no God!” That becomes visible in the Scandanavian architecture building temples to society in the modern civic centers. (cf. Rick Steves) Love for God eclipsed by that for Your neighbor. The Russian poet Dostoevsky goes a long way to illustrate the futility of this – and not only in “Crime and Punishment.” The same holds true for Selma Lagerlöf´s “Gösta Berling´s Saga“.
Wichman von Meding makes a strong argument, that Luther in his much-acclaimed catechisms gives us a basically legalistic (“gesetzliche”) introduction (“Prolegomena“) preceding the actual teaching of the Christian faith, which is found in his sermons, lectures and letters. The Catechisms however, are very much in line with the 10 commandments and all, that we are to do according to God´s guidance, laws and guidance.
Ein jeder lern sein Lektion, dann wird es wohl im Hause stohn!Kleine Katechismus 2014, Pg.898.
In the next section we will look more closely on how religion is basically a (wrong) way to reconnect with God.
Er (ML) wird sie (Gottessuche) später ablehnen: nicht menschliches Suchen, Gottes Finden ist Anfang der Wahrheit.Wichmann von Meding. 2012. Luthers Lehre. Teil 1: Ihre historische und literarische Gestalt. Frankfurt a.M. et al: Peter Lang. Pg. 357f
Read more here: Religion as Reconnecting with God (Part 2. of “Guidance in the Pentateuch. Re-reading Moses with Luther”)