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.