Dr. Martin on Monastic Futility

Product Details  Some Christians today unfortunately have a positive view of monasticism or monastic retreats; many of them view such things as very “spiritual” and pleasing to God.  Martin Luther, however, rightly rebuked such a view.  Having spent time in a monastery, Luther spoke first hand.  This excerpt that follows has a lot to do with the Reformation’s recovery of the gospel (justification by faith alone):

“The real change which Christ came to effect is an inward change of the human heart, just as I now have a different mind, courage, and perception than I did when we were still controlled by the papacy and before the Gospel was revealed anew. At that time I was convinced that God would reject me, and I did not believe that I would be serving God if I continued in my vocation, discharging the duties of my office. As a matter of fact, I did not know God as He really is. Nor did I know how I could ever overcome sin and death, go to heaven, and live in eternal bliss.  I had the idea that I had to reach those goals by my own good works; and I became a monk for that reason, and nearly tortured myself to death.”

“But salvation does not depend on caps, robes, not eating meats, fasting, and similar works.  Death cannot be destroyed in that way; nor can sins be washed away in that manner.  Instead, both sin and death continue to exist under either gray or black hoods, and under red or blue robes.  As I said earlier, salvation depends on the heart being enlightened and receiving a new seal, so that it can say, ‘I know that God accepts me just as I am, and that this truly applies to me because he has sent his Son, let him become a human being, so that through him I would be able to overcome sin and death and be assured of having eternal life.”

“…Prior to this time many people thought, ‘If I am to be saved, I will have to don a monk’s camp or a nun’s hood.’  If anyone tried to force you to wear one now, you would run to the end of the earth to avoid doing so.  Likewise if you previously would have eaten a bit of meat on Friday, you would have thought that the earth would upon up and swallow you for sure.  But now you tell the pope, the bishops, yes, the devil himself, ‘Go, kiss my hand! Why shouldn’t I eat meat?  Why should I be afraid to do so?’  That’s what it means to undergo an inner change and a change of heart, a change in which the heart acquires from God’s Word a different mind and will, and continues in its vocation and secular life as before, as we learn from the shepherds [in Luke 2:15-20).”

Martin Luther, a “Holy Christmas Day” sermon, Luther’s House Postils, in volume 5 of Luther’s sermons.

shane lems