Common Thoughts 1


I was aware that this year marked 500 years since Martin Luther pinned his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany starting what would become the Reformation. I didn’t plan to do anything with this knowledge until I heard author Eric Metaxas discussing his recent book, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. What a fascinating book, well written setting a clear context for Luther, why he personally changed as a Roman Catholic monk and did what others before him weren’t able to do, return Christians to the Christ of scripture.

The argument between Luther and Erasmus over free-will piqued my curiosity so I ordered and read, Luther and Erasmus: Free-Will and Salvation containing the full-volume of Erasmus’s On The Freedom of the Will, and Luther’s response, On The Bondage of the Will. I didn’t really know the intellectual and spiritual depth of Luther until I read his response. I decided to go one step further in my readings on Luther and the Reformation so I’m about to embark in reading Philip Melanchthon’s, Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521, a systematic theology of the Reformation from one of Luther’s brilliant co-founders of the Reformation.

I’m writing right now to try and get my head around something far greater than my head will ever in this life understand yet I cannot ignore it. If you are a believer in the Judeo/Christian God, and my thoughts right now are not part of Luther’s argument against Erasmus but he certainly opened the door for them, we have never let ourselves fully understand the utter otherness of God. We have conveniently reduced God to our “knowables”. Perhaps we do this because the Real Idea of God is so beyond our earthly understanding it’s the only way we can stay sane. If this is so, to keep our heads from exploding, there is a downside to it. We’ve reduced God to smaller than our minds and in doing so lost the real impact God should have in our lives. We make God knowable so we can know him, but it’s more our idea of God who gets lost as one of us.

What’s happening to me is that I’m having thoughts I’ve never thought before. I recognize I’m not the first to think these thoughts I’m having. Rudolf Otto was struggling with similar thoughts in his 1923 book, The Idea of the Holy. Here’s the problem, and Paul gives it to us in his letter to the Corinthians: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12 KJV.) It’s been better translated as, We see a riddle in a mirror. This is not a Rubik’s Cube that some pubescent kid can solve in the blink of an eye. Riddles in themselves are difficult to solve, impossible when looking at them in a mirror where everything is backwards.

Why am I going down this rabbit hole into disorienting thoughts? Because in trying to make God our Abba Father (daddy) whose lap we sit on and lovingly pull at his whiskers, that when the vail of the Holy of Holies was ripped and heaven was open to us, we too often as Christians trivialize God. In our image of ourselves we’re walking down the road to Emmaus dressed in our cut-off jeans, sleeveless shirts, wearing flip-flops and Jesus joins us and we say, “Hey, Dude, thanks for joining us.” It’s a familiarity we believe we have with God and his Christ, but we’ve reduced Him to our world rather than expand our world to His. In becoming too familiar we’ve also lost our reverence that requires us to step outside our comfortable world.

You don’t have to think long and hard to figure out I’m coming from a belief in God. I’m going to spend time ruminating on what that means, not to figure out Truth in its completeness because I know I’ll never get there, but to determine that part of Truth I can know. If you want to go on this excursion with me buckle up and enjoy the ride. If not, if you are a non-God believer let me recommend you read Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, also author of Sapiens. He is unabashedly anti-Christian and anti religion, but with enough honest questions he gives us what it looks like and will look like in a world without God. For me it’s frightening, but he spells it out right, this non-God world.