Word And Scripture In Luther Studies Since World War II -- By: Eugene F. Klug

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 005:1 (Spring 1984)
Article: Word And Scripture In Luther Studies Since World War II
Author: Eugene F. Klug

Word And Scripture In Luther Studies
Since World War II

Eugene F. Klug

Concordia Theological Seminary


Luther came to the world’s attention with his posting of the Ninety-five Theses, October 31, 1517. The issue had to do with the sale of indulgences and the significance or role they played in the sacrament of penance. Could they be bought without repentance? As a priest with a dedicated pastoral heart Luther agonized deeply over this question. He sought to debate the matter, not in order to trouble the church, but to clarify a very important point in the spiritual life of the people he served at Wittenberg. Once he saw the great stir caused by his challenge to the current practice in the church, he responded immediately in his Explanations to the Theses, early in 1518, defending his right on the basis of Holy Scripture to question what was going on in the name of Christ’s church. The gospel itself was at stake. In his introductory statement to the Explanations he made it very plain that he took his stance on Scripture’s authority. Already he was indicating that there was no higher authority in the church than God’s Word, specifically on doctrines and teaching.

The oath of fealty to the Sacred Scriptures that Luther took on October 4, 1512 when he was made a doctor of theology by the authority of the church itself, was for him a very serious responsibility and charge. He lived by it faithfully all his life, a sworn Doctor of Sacred Scriptures. To proclaim its truth was a duty entrusted to him by the church itself. It was a commission from God. It was this high trust in God’s expectations of him to be a loyal teacher of the Holy Scripture which finally led him into open conflict with the church under the papal hierarchy. Luther never saw his actions as those of a willful rebel against the church, but only as dutiful obedience before God and to his Word. From this Knechtsgestalt (“servant stance”) before God’s Holy Word Luther never wavered.

In comparison, contemporary theology is a troubled and troubling arena of conflicting opinions about the Holy Scriptures. To what extent and in what way are they to be viewed as the Word of God? In what way and to what extent are they to be looked upon as a human product? In spite of all confusion and debate on these questions, the fact remains that the Bible is the great unifying mooring point for all

that passes as Christianity. Insistence that the kérygma must be redesigned to meet the demands of modern man’s thought-forms has left the Bible’s content a largely time-bound and out-of-touch medium; and much biblical criticism has shredded the Bible’s author...

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