The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview

3
THE GENERAL AND THE
PROPER KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

GOD CAN be known to a certain extent even where the biblical revelation, the word, and faith are not known. For Luther, the witness of the Holy Scripture established this beyond all doubt. And his observation of the religions confirmed it. Luther also cited the religious views of classical authors, especially Cicero, in support of this view.

Luther reaffirms and elaborates Paul's assertion (Rom. 1:20)— that God has always been known through his works of creation— with the comment: The veneration of various gods in the idolatrous pagan religions presupposes that men carry within diemselves a conceptual notion of God and of the divine being. Without that, it would have been impossible for them to call their idols “gods,” to ascribe divine attributes to them, to worship them, and to pray to them. Men have this idea of God, however, as Paul says, from God himself.1 God has thus given men knowledge of himself. And this knowledge cannot be eradicated from the human heart. “This light and understanding is in the hearts of all men and can be neither suppressed nor put out.”2 The Epicureans and other atheists have tried to deny it, but they can do so only by doing violence to themselves. Atheism is opposed by the secret voice of conscience.3

All men have been given a general knowledge not only of God's

1WA 56, 179; LCC 15, 23. WA 40I, 607; LW 26, 399. WA 40I, 608;
LW 26, 400. WA 19, 205.

2WA 19, 205.

3 “There are people like the Epicureans, Pliny, and others who deny it with
their mouths [that there is a God]. But they must force themselves to do so;
and by trying to extinguish the light in their hearts they act like men who plug
their ears and close their eyes so that they may neither see nor hear. This does
not solve their problem, however, for their conscience tells them something
else.” WA 19, 206. “This basic theological 'insight of the conscience' is in
every mind and cannot be obscured.” WA 56, 177; LCC 15, 24.

-15-

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The Theology of Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • From the Preface to the German Edition v
  • Translator's Note ix
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Authority of Scripture and of the Creeds 3
  • 2: The Subject Matter of Theology 9
  • Part One - The Knowledge of God the Word of God and Faith 13
  • 3: The General and the Proper Knowledge of God 15
  • 4: God in Himself and God as He Reveals Himself 20
  • 5: The Theology of the Cross 25
  • 6: The Word of God and the Spirit of God 35
  • 7: Faith 43
  • 8: Reason 64
  • 9: The Holy Scripture 72
  • Part Two - God's Work 103
  • 10: God is God 105
  • 11: God's Will for Men 130
  • 12: Man as a Sinner 141
  • 13: Man Between God and Satan 161
  • 14: Man Under the Wrath of God 169
  • 15: God in Jesus Christ 179
  • 16: The Trinity 199
  • 17: Jesus Christ as the Reconciler and Redeemer 201
  • 18: Righteousness in Faith 224
  • 19: Law and Gospel 251
  • 20: The Freedom of the Gracious God 274
  • 21: The People of God 287
  • 22: The Church as the Community of Saints 294
  • 23: The Office of the Ministry 323
  • 24: The True Church and the Empirical Church 333
  • 25: The Sacrament 345
  • 26: Baptism 353
  • 27: The Lord's Supper 375
  • 28: Eschatology 404
  • Appendixes 427
  • Appendix One - “and Though I Had All Faith” 429
  • Appendix Two - “love and the Certainty of Salvation” 446
  • Indexes 459
  • Index of Names 460
  • Index of Subjects 461
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