A Jagged Contention: Drinking Wittenberg Beer

“Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble…. I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word.”

-Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 51, pg. 77


As we celebrate the 499th anniversary of the Reformation this weekend, do you think the church’s activity continues to reflect Luther’s confidence in the Word of God? Are we content to preach, teach, and write of Christ trusting that God will accomplish His purposes with His Word? Or, do we try too hard to bring about “reformation” by our own efforts? Do we actually believe we can have a beer with our friends while the Word does it all?

Share your thoughts in the comments below


3 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: Drinking Wittenberg Beer

  1. I hope Lutherans do not confuse what Luther said and did with the quietism that is prevalent in contemporary American Lutheranism. In any event one cannot simply compare the state run religion of Luther’s time with the free market religion of our time. Lessons can and should be learned, but the very real differences between 16th Century Germany and 21st Century America should be taken into account.


  2. Many attempts to “contextualize” the gospel often seem to deteriorate into attractional efforts. As well-intentional as these efforts might be, the impression I’m left with is that God’s Word, with out our help, isn’t up to the task.


  3. Good question! God’s Word is sufficient, although for this particular question you may want to look at the context of the time. Luther gave many people what they were craving for; the ability to understand the Word and ultimately the Truth, which was withheld from them by those in authority. This is what many wanted and needed. Luther didn’t live in the post-modern era where the majority of people, in my own generation, completely deny anything that remotely sounds like an argument for objective truth. I still believe the only weapon needed today is God’s Word. Does that mean that it’s out of the question to consider if additional tactics could be helpful in combatting this asinine worldview? I can’t answer that question, but I do know that we’re no longer preaching to the passionate, we’re dealing with the apathetic.


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