Horizontal Christian Ethics

 Heiko Oberman’s Luther: Man Between God and the Devil is probably my favorite church history (or historical theology) book of all time.  I highly recommend it – although it is an intermediate resource (probably college/university level reading).  Here are a few paragraphs I highlighted when I first read it ten years ago:

“Luther horizontalized Christian ethics: he transferred its goal from Heaven to earth.  Good works are not required for salvation but crucial for surviving in a threatened world.”

“Luther’s proclamation of the reformation-to-come, as well as his call to reform and betterment, are presented in a medieval vocabulary and can only be understood against the background of the Middle Ages.  Yet it is exactly this background which allows us also to discern the uniqueness of his vision.  This entails above all the rejection of any attempt to transform the world, whether it be advanced by the disciples of Joachim, by Pope Innocent III, or b the sixteenth-century peasants rebelling for their God-given rights.”

“Luther can be seen as a follower of Bernard of Clairvaux – but then a radical follower, because the situation since the days of St. Bernard had so deteriorated that the crusade now to be launched is no longer aimed at the liberation of the Holy Land but of the Holy People, the Church itself.  Because of the advanced time of world history, these crusades can no longer be waged by armies.  Only one weapon is left: the preaching of a powerless Christ, and Him crucified.”

“…In his [Luther’s] ability to show how to live a Christian life between-the-times, he was centuries ahead of today’s most advanced theological scholarship.”

Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, p. 80-81.

rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond wi

1 thought on “Horizontal Christian Ethics”

  1. These great quotes and your glowing endorsement make me want to read this book! As if I needed another right now! Anyway, I passed it along to several pastor friends of mine. We’ll see who gets it and reads it first!


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