The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview
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GOD ENTERS into a saving encounter with man only by “clothing” himself and causing himself to be found at a place he himself has designated.1 This particular place is Christ. Where, however, can we find Christ? How is he present with us and known to us? “No one will find him any place except in God's word.”2 He comes to us only through the gospel which testifies to Christ This testimony is given in the Holy Scripture insofar as both Old and New Testaments “preach Christ” [Christum treiben] —to use Luther's expression.3 This gospel constantly comes to us in the proclamation of the church. It comes also in that word of promise which Christians speak to one another and which ministers of the word in particular are authorized to speak to the people committed to their care. The word proclaimed by the church cannot be thought of as Christian apart from the biblical word from which it obtains its life. One may, however, not think of the biblical word without the contemporary living proclamation, that “shouted word” which Luther felt is the original as well as the essential form of the gospel.4 Both Scripture and the spoken word however are external words; that is, they are not primarily a direct mystical communication from God's spirit to man's spirit but a word which

1 See pp. 21 ff.

2 “How, then, do we have Christ? After all, he is sitting at the right hand of
the Father: he will not come down to us in our house. No, this he will not do.
But how do I gain and have him? Ah, you cannot have him except in the
gospel.… And since Christ comes into our heart through the gospel, he
must also be accepted by the heart. As I now believe that he is in the gospel,
so I receive him and have him already.” WA 10III, 349; LW 51, 114. “Christ
cannot be known except through his word; without this word Christ's flesh is
of no help to me even though it were to come today.” WA 10III, 210. Cf. WA
12, 414.

3 [A more literal but perhaps too colloquial translation of Christum treiben
would be “to push Christ.” The parallel to the salesman's jargon gives some
connotations that “to teach Christ” does not.—Trans.]

4 WA 4011, 410 f.; LW 12, 369. WA 50, 240; BC, 310.


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