Monday, January 31, 2005

Martin Luther's Reform of Marriage, Part 7

This is part 7 [parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are here] in a continuing series on Martin Luther and his marriage, exerpted from the forthcoming book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.

Luther’s Teachings on Marriage, Love, and Sex

We now turn from looking at the Luther’s marriage itself to offering a cursory review of Martin Luther’s teachings on marriage. A comprehensive treatment would make for a very large volume, so we will only scratch the surface of Luther’s rich teaching on these issues.

The Necessity of Marriage

Luther once asked a very simple but provocative question: “Why should one not forestall immorality by means of marriage?”[1] Luther believed in the gift of celibacy—in fact, God granted it to him for many years. Paul had been granted the gift, and commended it in 1 Corinthians 7 as a blessing for the furtherance of the kingdom. But Luther also believed that it was a very rare gift. He suggested that many young men and women without the divine gift of celibacy were rejecting the divine gift of marriage. His counsel was that if you are struggling with lust, then your duty is simple: get married!

Whoever finds himself unsuited to the celibate life should see to it right away that he has something to do and to work at; then let him strike out in God’s name and get married. A young man should marry at the age of twenty at the latest, a young woman at fifteen to eighteen; that’s when they are still in good health and best suited for marriage.[2]

Obviously the specifics here were not to be written in stone. After all, Katie was 26 and Luther was in his 41 years old when they were married! Further, this is not meant to be a discouragement for those earnestly desiring to marry. But it is an exhortation to those who are practicing what Albert Mohler has called “extended adolescence.” Mohler comments on the troubling trend of the “marginalization of marriage” in the church and world today:

Demographic trends, cultural shifts, and a weakening of the biblical concept of marriage have produced a situation in which marriage is in big trouble, even among many Christians. . . . By any calculation, the statistics indicate that young adults are marrying much later in life than at any time in recent human history. As a matter of fact, demographers have suggested that this new pattern of delay in marriage has established a statistical pattern that in previous generations had been most closely associated with social crises like war and natural disaster.[3]

“From Genesis to Revelation,” Mohler writes, “the Bible assumes that marriage is normative for human beings.”[4] Marriage is biblically normative. Therefore, it should be both expected and sought. Luther’s counsel is both blunt and necessary:

If you have the gift of abstinence and can live without sex, well and good. Then abstain from sex life. But if you cannot without sin abstain from uniting with a woman, then make use of the remedy God points out to you.[5]

Luther’s words could not be any more relevant for the current crisis that Mohler identifies.

The Essence and Purpose of Marriage

Luther defined marriage in this way:

Marriage is the God-appointed and legitimate union of man and woman in the hope of having children or at least for the purpose of avoiding fornication and sin and living to the glory of God. [6]

And here is how he identified the purpose of marriage:

The ultimate purpose is to obey God, to find aid and counsel against sin; to call upon God; to seek, love, and educate children for the glory of God; to live with one’s wife in the fear of God and to bear the cross; but if there are no children, nevertheless to live with one’s wife in contentment; and to avoid all lewdness with others.[7]

We see a number of important elements in this definition. First, its ultimate purpose is the glory of God. Second, we see that children are not just the blessed byproducts of marriage; they are part of the very essence of the marital design. I will have more to say on this below. Third, sanctification is at the very heart of marriage. Marriage is a God-appointed means of obeying God, fulfilling our God-given desires, avoiding sin, and instructing children in the faith.

Marriage Is an Instrument of Sanctification

One of Luther’s early metaphors for marriage was that of a hospital. “The temptation of the flesh has become so strong and consuming that marriage may be likened to a hospital for incurables which prevents inmates from falling into graver sins.”[8] Roland Bainton notes that:

After his own marriage Luther’s tone shifted to a stress upon the home as a school for character. It is the area where the Christian virtues find their readiest exemplification, and, whereas in Catholicism monasticism is the sphere for the cultivation of the counsels of perfection, in Protestantism the home is as it were a functional substitute.[9]

Both metaphors—a school and a hospital—signal the importance role of marriage as an agent of sanctification and rehabilitation. Our selfishness and pride are exposed. And if we respond in God-honoring humility, marriage can be used by God to cleanse us of our sin. The shift away from the monastic metaphor is also significant, for it signifies that marriage is never a purely private affair. Christian marriage is not to be of the world, but it must certainly be in the world. This leads to our next point.

Marriage Is Not a Sacrament

One of Luther’s most significant teachings was that marriage is not a sacrament. The tradition of viewing marriage as a sacrament was due in part to a mistranslation of the Latin Vulgate, which rendered mysterion (lit., mystery) as sacrementum in Ephesians 5:32.[10] Luther argued instead that marriage was a public, civic matter: “Marriage is a civic matter (res politica). It is really not, together with all its circumstances, the business of the church. It is so only when a matter of conscience is involved.”[11] As Lazareth summarizes: “Marriage is a wonderful blessing of God but it is not a Christian sacrament. . . . Marriage is still under the law of God but not under the wing of the church.”[12] This does not in any way lessen the spiritual significance of marriage. As we saw above, Luther viewed marriage as a school for sanctification. But why relegate it to the civic realm? Because marriage is not designed only for Christians. It is a creation ordinance—a rule of God established for all people. Obviously we desire that all people bow their knees and acknowledge Jesus as their Lord—as all will do one day (Phil. 2:11). But that is not a prerequisite for a legitimate marriage. Marriage is not to be “regarded as a holy sacrament in the realm of grace, but honored rather as a divine ordinance in the realm of creation.”[13] Marriage, therefore, is designed as an institution to serve the public good and is to thereby be the foundation for a well-ordered society.

Sex Is Good, Necessary, and Should Be Celebrated within Marriage

Against those who downplayed marriage, denigrated sex, and urged lifelong continence, Luther taught that unless one has the rare gift of celibacy, marriage and sex are both natural and necessary.

It is not a matter of free choice or decision but a natural and necessary thing, that whatever is a man must have a woman and whatever is a woman must have a man. . . . It is just as necessary as the fact that I am a man, and more necessary than sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, and emptying the bowels and bladder. . . . And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice.[14]

In other words, God designed us as sexual beings, and this should lead the majority of us to seek sexual relations in a covenantal marital relationship comprised of one man and one woman.

Physical union between man and wife, however, is not a sufficient condition for a healthy marriage:

I have observed many married couples coming together in such great passion that they were ready to devour each other for love, but after a half year the one ran away from the other.[15]

A bride is taken quickly; to love her for a lifetime is a quite a different matter. . . . For merely sleeping together [copula carnalis] will not do it alone; there must also be unity and harmony of mind, habits, and life. Each must be patient and helpful with the other for things cannot always go smoothly.[16]

Sex by itself can do nothing. There must also be a union of the heart and mind. In fact, sex in marriage can be overdone:

It is indeed true that sexual intercourse in marriage should be moderate, to extinguish the burning of the flesh. Just as we should observe moderation in eating and drinking, so pious couples should refrain from indulging their flesh too much.[17]

Luther also wrote that “Intercourse is never without sin,”[18] which has led some to imagine that he thought the sex act was inherently evil. This conclusion, however, ignores the qualification that Luther immediately adds:

Intercourse is never without sin; but God excuses it by his grace because the estate of marriage is his work, and he preserves in and through the sin all that good which he implanted and blessed in marriage.[19]

So there is sin bound up with the sex act, but marriage is the matrix for the redemption of sex. Allan Carlson comments on this passage: “Through marriage, sex became a moral good, an expression of God’s will. This was the heart of Luther’s sexual revolution.”[20] It is also important to note that Luther extolled the virtues and beauty of pre-Fall sex:

[T]ruly in all nature there was no activity more excellent and more admirable than procreation. After the proclamation of the name of God it is the most important activity Adam and Eve in the state of innocence could carry on—as free from sin in doing this as they were in praising God.[21]

But the Fall introduced disastrous results:

If Adam had not fallen, the love of bride and groom would have been the loveliest thing. Now this love is not pure either, for admittedly a married partner desires to have the other, yet each seeks to satisfy his desire with the other, and it is this desire which corrupts this kind of love. Therefore, the married state is now no longer pure and free from sin.[22]

In sum, then, we see that Luther praised the virtues of pre-Fall sex, sees marriage as the matrix of redemption for sexuality, and yet still sees the sin lurking in the marital bed. If all we knew was the above, then we might conclude that Luther had a low—or at least a reserved—view of sex and its place in the Christian life. But Luther was also an advocate for celebrating the gift of sexual union. When Luther’s longtime correspondent Spalatin got married just five months after Martin and Katie, Luther wrote him a note, obviously delighted that his friend would be able to experience the joy of sex with his new bride. Heiko Oberman notes that this “erotic passage” “was stricken from editions of Luther’s letters very early on.”

When you sleep with your Catherine and embrace her, you should think: “This child of man, this creature of God has been given to me by my Christ. May he be praised and glorified.” On the evening of the day on which, according to my calculations, you will receive this, I shall make love to my Catherine while you make love to yours, and thus we will be united in love.[23]

Furthermore, in accordance with Scripture (1 Cor. 7:3-5), Luther celebrated the idea of regular sexual intercourse within the bounds of marriage. Whereas the apostle Paul’s counsel was only in general, unspecified terms, Luther was more than happy to give specific detail! William Lazareth writes: “As to the recommend frequency of marital coitus, the hale and hearty spirit (if not the actual words) of Luther’s sexual counsel is reflected in the humorous couplet traditionally ascribed to him: “Twice a week, hundred-four a year, should give neither cause to fear.”[24]

We see then in Luther a healthy, joyful appreciation for the gift of sex in marriage. Lazareth summarizes Luther’s view: “Christians who have been transformed by the gospel are not to avoid sex, but to dedicate their sexual gifts—like all others—both joyfully and shamelessly to the glory and service of God.”[25] Finally, Lazareth rightly captures Luther’s view of marriage, family, and sex with the following description: “Luther’s faith was simple enough to trust that after a conscientious day’s labor, a Christian father could come home and eat his sausage, drink his beer, play his flute, sing with his children, and make love to his wife—all to the glory of God!”[26]

[1] LW 45:45.

[2] LW 45:48.

[3] Albert Mohler, “Looking Back at the Mystery of Marriage: Part One,” (accessed 1/19/05). Time Magazine recently ran a coverstory (Jan. 16, 2004), entitled “Grow Up? Not So Fast,” observing that “This isn't just a trend, a temporary fad or a generational hiccup. This is a much larger phenomenon, of a different kind and a different order. Social scientists are starting to realize that a permanent shift has taken place in the way we live our lives.” See (accessed 1/19/05).

[4] Ibid.

[5] WLS, 898.

[6] Ibid., 884.

[7] Ibid.

[8] LW 44:9.

[9] Roland H. Bainton, What Christianity Says About Sex, Love and Marriage (New York: Association Press, 1957), 79.

[10] LW 36:93-94.

[11] WLS, 885.

[12] Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home, 185.

[13] Ibid.

[14] LW 45:18.

[15] WLS, 899.

[16] Cited in Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home, 227.

[17] WLS #2812.

[18] LW 45:49.

[19] LW 45:49.

[20] Allen C. Carlson, “A Revolutionary Theology of Sex: Martin Luther on Sex, Marriage and Family,” Witherspoon Lectures (July 2, 2004), (accessed 1-14-05).

[21] LW 5:117-18.

[22] LW 44:9.

[23] Cited in Oberman, Luther, 276.

[24] Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home, 226 n. 226.

[25] Ibid., 226.

[26] Ibid., 145.

Pictures from Iraq

These two pictures of voters in Iraq--here and here--are deeply moving.

Mercy in Iraq

An incredible story if true! (It seems fairly well documented, and despite how unbelievable it seems, it doesn't have the vagueness of a typical "urban legend.")

(Hat tip: SCA)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals

According to Time Magazine, here are the 25 most influential evangelicals in America:

1. Rick Warren (America's New People's Pastor)
2. Howard and Roberta Ahmanson (The Financers)
3. David Barton (The Lesson Planner)
4. Doug Coe (The Stealth Persuader)
5. Chuck Colson (Reborn and Rehabilitated)
6. Luis Cortes (Bringing Latinos to the Table)
7. James Dobson (The Culture Warrior)
8. Stuart Epperson (A High-Fidelity Messenger)
9. Michael Gerson (The President's Spiritual Scribe)
10. Billy and Franklin Graham (Father and Son in the Spirit)
11. Ted Haggard (Opening Up the Umbrella Group)
12. Bill Hybels (Pioneering Mass Appeal)
13. T.D. Jakes (The Pentecostal Media Mogul)
14. Diane Knippers (A Think Tank with Firepower)
15. Tim and Beverly LaHaye (The Christian Power Couple)
16. Richard Land (God's Lobbyist)
17. Brian McLaren (Paradigm Shifter)
18. Joyce Meyer (A Feminine Side of Evangelism)
19. Richard John Neuhaus (Bushism Made Catholic)
20. Mark Noll (The Intellectual Exemplar)
21. J.I. Packer (Theological Traffic Cop)
22. Rick Santorum (The Point Man on Capitol Hill)
23. Jay Sekulow (The Almighty's Attorney-at-Law)
24. Stephen Strang (Keeper of "The Faith")
25. Ralph Winter (A Global Mission)

A lot could be said regarding Time's inclusions and exclusions. It will be interesting to see the response by the God-blog-osphere. A few quick observations, in no particular order: (1) I'm thankful they didn't include Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. They obviously have a degree of influence, but I don't personally know a single person who reads their books, listens to their shows, etc. In other words, their influence is grossly exagerrated, and it's good to see Time not perpetuating the illusion. (2) They are obviously some notable evangelicals missing. Al Mohler? Hugh Hewitt? John MacArthur? R.C. Sproul? Beth Moore? (3) It seems to me that the selections were heavily weighted, in my cases, toward political allegiance with President Bush. This is understandable to some degree, given that the re-election of the President has been one of the impetuses for the desire to reexamine who the evangelicals are. (Even more strange, then, that Hewitt wasn't mentioned.) (4) I hadn't heard of four of the entries before (numbers 2, 3, 6, 14). Can you be among the most influential evangelicals if the vast majority of evangelicals don't even know your name? I think you can. But it creates a bit of surprise/dissonance upon initially reading the list. (5) Interesting absence: Bruce Wilkinson. A couple of years ago he probably would have been at the top of the list. (6) I was glad to see entries like Winter and Noll. They are not the sort of guys who are going to be on Larry King Live or the O'Reilly Show. But their influence is immeasurable. Hats off to Time for doing their homework. (7) Strange: two Catholics (Niehaus and Santorum). Then why call it a list of 25 most influential evangelicals?

The list could have been much worse. All in all, I'd rate the article a B--and give the idea for the list an A.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

He Fought the Blogs, and the Blogs Won

Powerline reports on a WaPo political reporter who has apparently missed the media revolution. It's a nice try, though.

(That title, BTW, is meant to be sung to the tune of "I fought the law, and the law won." Pretty clever, I know.)

[corrected--thanks to the anonymous commentor. Me need more sleep.]

Reclaiming the Center

Here's a review of Reclaiming the Center by Scott Oliphant of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Martin Luther's Reform of Marriage, Part 6

This is part 6 [parts 1, 2, and 3, and 4, and 5 are here] in a continuing series on Martin Luther and his marriage, exerpted from the forthcoming book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.


Her biographers describe her as “patient, focused, and stubborn.” And judging by Lucas Cranach’s portraits of her, they describe her as having an “interesting face: expressive, almond-shaped eyes; high cheekbones; and a mouth that appears ready to talk.”[1] Katie was the sort of person who could take a joke—and Martin was certain the type who enjoyed dishing it out. In his letters he often teased her about matters such as her frugality, negligence, and worries.[2] Katie also had a sense of humor, along with a way of correcting her husband in just that way that he needed. Once, when Luther was so depressed that no words of counsel seemed capable of penetrating his darkness, Katie decided to don a black dress. Luther asked: “Are you going to a funeral?” “No,” she replied, “but since you act as though God is dead, I wanted to join you in the mourning.” Luther quickly recovered![3]

Katie performed innumerable tasks for the family. While Martin lectured and wrote and debated and preached and traveled, Katie drove the wagon, took care of the field, bought and put cattle out to pasture, brewed the beer, prepared food for the graduation banquets, rented the horses, sold linen, served as Martin’s publishing agent, and often nursed him back to health during his frequent illnesses. [4] Martin often called her the “morning star of Wittenberg” since she rose at 4 a.m. to begin her many responsibilities—and often worked until 9 in the evening. Luther often had to urge her to relax.

Their Children

Katie bore six children—three sons and three daughters: Hans (John), Elizabeth, Magdalena, Martin, Paul, and Margaretha. The children brought great joy to their household. Martin often told them stories, taught them songs and games, played melodies on his lute, and instructed them in the faith. Four of the children lived to adulthood; Elizabeth died at the age of 13 months, and Magdalena died at the age of 13 years. Luther’s letters tell of the deep pain their deaths caused him and Katherine.

Their Final Days

Martin Luther died early in the morning on February 18, 1546 in Eisleben at the age of 62. Katie wrote in a rare letter that she was “deeply grieved and saddened over the loss of such a dear and precious man as my husband has been.”[5] Katie was to live for nearly seven more difficult years until her death on December 21, 1552 at the age of 53. Among her final recorded words was that the desire of her heart was to “cling to Christ like a burr to a dress.”[6]

[1] Markwald, Katharina von Bora, 197.

[2] LW, 50:150, 174, 305, etc.

[3] Cited in Markland, Katharina von Bora, 140.

[4] LW, 50:108-109, 81, 94,167, etc.

[5] Cited in ibid., 176.

[6] Cited in ibid., 192.

Can Democrats Be Pro-Life

Doug Bandow looks at the recent rhetoric. Conclusion: "Democrats must do more than talk the talk. They must walk the walk."

Polling the Iraqis

Powerline has the results of a new poll of Iraqis about the upcoming elections. Quite interesting. It seems that the Iraqis are a lot more optimistic than Peter Jennings, whom I saw drone on and on last night about how dangerous it was in Baghdad for journalists and "Oh" (he actually said "Oh") how he missed the days of talking to ordinary Iraqis on the street. Oh for the good ol' days of Sadaam.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Biblical Reliability Conference

On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18-19, the MacLaurin Institute of Minneapolis will be hosting a Conference on Biblical Reliability: Cracking the DaVinci Code and Other Modern Fables That Discount the Trustworthiness of the Bible.

The lectures will cover such issues as canonicity, the nature of revelation, transmission of the text, tests of the internal and external coherence, textual purpose and message (worldview), and historical reliability.

The vision of the conference is to raise the level of confidence in biblical revelation through a high-quality conference that provides substantial scholarly arguments for biblical reliability while also modeling an effective apologetic.

Professors Craig Blomberg and Walter Kaiser will be the two plenary speakers. The Saturday evening panel will be on the trusting the Bible in matters of science and history. Panelists will include Blomberg and David Howard, OT professor at Bethel Seminary, along with Dr. Corrine Carvalho, Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, Philip Sellew, Associate Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, and another member of the religious studies faculty at the U of Minnesota.

You can check online for the schedule and for ticket information.

What Is Union with Christ?

I have to confess that I grew up somewhat despising hymns. Part of the problem was that there were sung in such a lifeless, dull manner. But as I've grown older, I come more and more to appreciate their theological depth and breadth.

Here is a wonderful old hymn that beautifully teaches that truth that God's chosen people are united to Christ and therefore receive all of the benefits and joys of his salvation:

1. 'Twixt Jesus and the Chosen Race
Subsists a bond of sov'reign grace,
That hell, with its infernal train,
Shall ne'er dissolve, or rend in twain.

2. This sacred bond shall never break,
Though earth should to her center shake;
Rest, doubting saint, assured of this,
For God has pledged His holiness.

3. He swore but once the deed was done;
'Twas settled by the great Three One;
Christ was appointed to redeem
All that the Father loved in Him.

4. Hail, sacred union, firm and strong
How great thy grace, how sweet the song,
That rebel worms should ever be
One with incarnate Deity!

5. One in the tomb, one when He rose,
One when he triumphed o'er His foes
One when in heav'n He took His seat,
While seraphs sung at hell's defeat.

6. Blessed by the wisdom and the grace,
Th' eternal love and faithfulness,
That's in the gospel scheme revealed,
And is by God the Spirit sealed.

Justification vs. Sanctification

What's the difference between "justification" and "sanctification"?

Tony Lane explains the explanation of the Reformation:

Justification refers to my status;
sanctification to my state.

Justification is about God’s attitude to me changing;
sanctification is about God changing me.

Justification is about how God looks on me;
sanctification is about what he does in me.

Justification is about Christ dying for my sins on the cross;
sanctification is about Christ at work in me by the Holy Spirit changing my life.

The Reformers were careful to distinguish the two—but not to separate them One cannot have the one without the other—as with the heat and light of the sun. The sun gives out heat and light. These two cannot be separated. When the sun shines there is both heat and light; yet they are distinct and not to be confused. We are not warmed by the sun’s light nor illuminated by its heat.

To use a modern illustration, justification and sanctification are like the two legs of a pair of trousers, not like socks which may well become separated and, in the author’s experience, too often do become separated.

Anthony N. S. Lane, Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue: An Evangelical Assessment (London: T&T Clark, 2002), 18.

Remembering Johnny

I watched the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night. His tribute to Johnny Carson was both joyful, sober, and heartfelt. The old clips of Johnny still elicit chuckles after all these years. Unfortunately, old guests like Don Rickles and Bob Newhart just aren't that funny anymore. Rickles may have been funny at one time, but he comes across as somone who desperately needs you to laugh at every expression and one liner he utters, which frankly is more pathetic than funny after a while.

Larry Miller, on the other hand, is a genuinely funny guy. His remembrance of Carson in the Weekly Standard is seriously funny. I think it's the way that Carson would want to be eulogized--not with the focus on him, but on the funny things going on around him.

One more thing to note about Carson: I think it should be noted how studiously he avoided the limelight after his retirement. There's something deeply admirable and healthy about that. So many celebrities seem to never go away--always holding on for just one more stroke of their ego. Carson did his job, did it well, and when it was done, he disappeared from the scene.

Homosexuality as a Challenge to the Church

I just finished reading the chapter submission by Al Mohler’s on homosexual marriage, to be published in the forthcoming Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. (The audio version, upon which the chapter is based, can be heard here.) The title of his chapter—“Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church”—accurately conveys the heart of his message: the issue is not just about who homosexuals are or should be, but rather about the kind of people that we—as the body of Christ—must be.

Dr. Mohler’s points are as follows:

  1. We must be the people—the body of Christ—who can’t start a conversation about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage.

  1. We are people who can’t ever talk about sex without talking about marriage.

  1. We must be the people who cannot talk about anything of significance without acknowledging our absolute dependence upon God’s revelation—the Bible.

  1. We must be the people with a theology adequate to explain the deadly deception of sexual sin.

  1. We must be the people with the theology adequate to explain Christ’s victory over sin.

  1. We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality.

  1. We must be the people who tell the truth about homosexual marriage, and thus refuse to accept even its possibility because we love and seek the glory of God for all.

It’s a wonderful message that the church needs to hear and to heed. Again, the audio can be heard here.

Martin Luther's Reform of Marriage, Part 5

This is part 5 [parts 1, 2, and 3, and 4 are here] in a continuing series on Martin Luther and his marriage, exerpted from the forthcoming book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.

The Marriage and Family of Martin and Katie

Their Home

The dilapidated Black Cloister—which had once housed 40 monks—was the Luthers’ home for the first eight years of their marriage. Prior to marriage, Luther slept there on a smelly straw bed. Wolfgang Seberger, Luther’s lazy servant, had neglected to air out the straw in Luther’s bed for a year, and Luther was apparently too busy too care! He later remarked: “Before I was married the bed was not made for a whole year and became foul with sweat.”[1] Shortly after their wedding Luther wisely ordered a new mattress for him and his new bride![2] Luther—who once famously boasted “If I break wind in Wittenberg they smell it in Rome”—undoubtedly had to make some adjustments to his bachelor lifestyle. It took some time for him to get used to it:

A man is likely to wonder a great deal when he first gets married. Sitting at the table, he muses, “Not long ago I was by myself, but now there are two of us.” When he is in bed and wakes up, he sees two pigtails next to him—something he did not see there before.[3]

The Black Cloiseter was quite large—and often quite full. It seems that this was the case from the very beginning of their marriage. On the night of their public wedding, Andreas Karlstadt—a frequent adversary of Luther’s—was fleeing from the Peasants’ War and seeking shelter. Martin invited him to stay—and Karlstadt stayed for eight more weeks! A few years into their marriage, the Luther’s took into their home the six children of Luther’s sister.[4] They also raised Katherine’s nephew. University students often ate and boarded there, and Luther’s letters make reference to a steady stream of guests either coming or going.[5] Their household could, at times, number as high as twenty-five!

For many years Luther didn’t charge anyone for room and board. (In fact, there was a waiting list for those who wanted to room and board with the Luthers.) This, combined with his refusal to charge for lecturing, his refusal to accept honoraria for his writing, and his generosity toward the poor, led the Luthers quickly into debt. But as Luther once wrote: “God put fingers on our hand for the money to slide through them so He can give us more. Whatever a person gives away, God will reimburse.”[6] Another time Luther said: “Riches are among the most trivial things on earth and the smallest gift God gives to a person.”[7]

Their poverty, however, was of no comparison to the richness that Martin found in his bride Katie: “My Katie,” he wrote, “is in all things so obliging and pleasing to me that I would not exchange my poverty for the riches of Croesus.”[8] Once, when Luther thought he was dying, he wrote: “My dear son and my dear Kate. I have nothing [in worldly goods] to bequest to you, but I have a rich God. Him I leave to you. He will nourish you well.”[9]


Her biographers describe her as “patient, focused, and stubborn.” And judging by Lucas Cranach’s portraits of her, they describe her as having an “interesting face: expressive, almond-shaped eyes; high cheekbones; and a mouth that appears ready to talk.”[10] Katie was the sort of person who could take a joke—and Martin was certain the type who enjoyed dishing it out. In his letters he often teased her about matters such as her frugality, negligence, and worries.[11] Katie also had a sense of humor, along with a way of correcting her husband in just that way that he needed. Once, when Luther was so depressed that no words of counsel seemed capable of penetrating his darkness, Katie decided to don a black dress. Luther asked: “Are you going to a funeral?” “No,” she replied, “but since you act as though God is dead, I wanted to join you in the mourning.” Luther quickly recovered![12]

Katie performed innumerable tasks for the family. While Martin lectured and wrote and debated and preached and traveled, Katie drove the wagon, took care of the field, bought and put cattle out to pasture, brewed the beer, prepared food for the graduation banquets, rented the horses, sold linen, served as Martin’s publishing agent, and often nursed him back to health during his frequent illnesses. [13] Martin often called her the “morning star of Wittenberg” since she rose at 4 a.m. to begin her many responsibilities—and often worked until 9 in the evening. Luther often had to urge her to relax.

[1] Bainton, Here I Stand, 226.

[2] LW 49:142.

[3] Martin Luther, D. Martin Luthers Werke: Tischreden [hereafter WATr], 6 vols. J. F. K. Knaake, G. Kawerau, et al., eds. (Weimar, 1912-21), 3:211.

[4] Scholars lack information about Luther’s sister, but it is probable that she had died.

[5] For example, see Luther’s references to household guests in LW 49:122; 50:81; 50:126; 50:149; 50:223; 50:292.

[6] Cited in Markwald, Katharina von Bora, 86.

[7] WATr 5:240.

[8] A proverbial saying referring to King Croesus (sixth cent., bc). Cited in Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home, 31.

[9] WATr 3:90.

[10] Markwald, Katharina von Bora, 197.

[11] LW, 50:150, 174, 305, etc.

[12] Cited in Markland, Katharina von Bora, 140.

[13] LW, 50:108-109, 81, 94,167, etc.

Jiviv vs. Boyd

The third round.

Monday, January 24, 2005

"Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ" (John Piper)

Here is John Piper's provocative sermon from yesterday on Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ--exploring the connections between sexism, racism, and abortion.

Krista's Testimony

Below is an article that was posted onto the new blog, About Face Now. This blog, created this weekend by a friend of mine, is "a forum of hope and encouragement for those suffering from perceptual disabilities, facial deformities, and cranial birth defects." Below is a testimony from a young woman at our church. Krista's testimony to God's goodness and faithfulness is a wonderful encouragement. I pray that God would graciously grant me to imitate her faith in His goodness.

My name is Krista Horning and I am fifteen years old. I have Apert Syndrome which is a genetic birth defect. People with Apert Syndrome all have fused skull bones, a sunken midface, and fused fingers and toes. We know 10 other people in Minnesota with Apert Syndrome. We all look a lot alike, but we also have differences. Some have trouble learning, some have hydrocephalus, and some have eye or ear problems. I was born with no airway through my nose, and fused shoulders and elbows.

After I was born, one doctor told my parents that I would never be normal (my eyes would stick out like a frog’s) and that they would probably get divorced. Fifteen years later, I don’t look like a frog and my parents aren’t divorced. Sometimes my life has been hard, but God has been good to us since the day I was born.

I have had over 50 surgeries. Most of them have been on my skull, arms, and hands. When I was 4 months old, a doctor took my skull apart and put it back together a different way. Making an airway in my nose was really hard, but I can breathe a lot better than I used to. Last summer we tried a rare surgery to make an elbow in my stiff arms, but it failed.
I get pretty nervous before surgery. I don’t like being put to sleep and I know it will hurt when I wake up. Before surgery, my parents and I read through lots of Bible verses we’ve memorized, where God promises He will be with me where ever I go. That helps me not be so afraid. God even does some things to make me laugh and let me know how much He loves me. One time I had surgery at a new hospital and I was extra nervous. I love pigs, and that day they showed up everywhere. There was a pig show on TV, I got a pig shirt, and a live pig even walked into my room!

Since I don’t have elbow or shoulder joints, I can’t do many things by myself. My mom and dad have to help me take care of myself. Sometimes I fall and have gotten hurt really bad. I’d like to be able to bake cookies and pick up little babies. We’re trying to find ways to make that happen.

The thing that hurts me the most is that everywhere I go, people stare and point at me because my hands and face look different. I’ve had to pray and memorize verses like I Sam. 16:7, “People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I know my family always loves me, and the friends I do have are very special.

I like to draw, write, and make needlepoint bookmarks. That takes a lot of work since my fingers are stiff. I also really like babysitting kids in the nursery at church. I feel comfortable there because I am accepted and valuable to them. My favorite thing is when a little toddler sits in my lap and lets me read a book. Some day I’d like to work in the Children’s Ministry at my church. The people there have encouraged me a lot.

Even though my life has been difficult, I know that God loves me and created me just the way I am. He has taught me to persevere and to trust Him more than anything. Ever since I was born, a lot of people have prayed for me. That has changed my life and the lives of people around me. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I have known this verse since I was a little child. I say it to myself and know that God keeps His promises.

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Martin Luther's Reform of Marriage, Part 4

This is part 4 [parts 1, 2, and 3 are here] in a continuing series on Martin Luther and his marriage, exerpted from the forthcoming book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.

The Wedding of Martin and Katie

On the evening of June 13, 1525, which was a Tuesday—the customary day for weddings—the couple became legally engaged in Luther’s home, which was the former Augustinian monastery. The witnesses included Justus Jonas (Luther’s best friend), Johann Bugenhagen (pastor of the Wittenberg city church), Lucas and Barbara Cranach (whose family Katherine was living with at the time), and Johann Apel (a professor of jurisprudence and an ex-Dean of the Cathedral of Bamberg, who had himself married a nun). Although it was not the customary practice of that time, the couple was immediately married by Bugenhagen after the engagement. After the ceremony, and in the presence of witness, the witnesses escorted the bride and groom to the nuptial bed. Then, in accordance with an ancient German custom, the couple consummated their marriage in the presence of Jonas, who served as a witness.

On the following morning Luther entertained his friends at breakfast. Jonas hired a special messenger to deliver a firsthand account of the marriage to Spalatin:

This letter will come to you, my dear Spalatin, as the bearer of great news. Our Luther has married Catharine von Bora. I was present and was a witness of the marriage yesterday (and saw the bride lying in the marriage chamber). Seeing that sight I had to give way to my feelings and could not refrain from tears. Now that it has happened and is the will of God, I wish this good and true man and beloved father in the Lord much happiness. God is wonderful in His work and ways.[1]

The Luthers decided to have a public ceremony two weeks later, on June 27, so that out-of-town guests (including his parents) could be notified and join in the celebration. Examining the personal wedding invitations written by Luther himself gives us interesting insight into Luther’s mindset at the time. We see a man obviously excited and enthusiastic—even surprised—about this new stage of his life. These invitations make it also clear that this wedding was more than just an act of love between two people. Luther clearly had one eye cocked to the watching world.

To Spalatin he writes:

I have stopped the mouths of my calumniators with Catharine von Bora. . . . I have made myself so cheap and despised by this marriage that I expect the angels laugh and the devils weep thereat.

The world and its wise men have not yet seen how pious and sacred is marriage, but they consider it impious and devilish in me. It pleases me, however, to have my marriage condemned by those who are ignorant of God.[2]

In some of the invitations Luther stresses what an unexpected turn of events this is—even for him. To Wenzel Link: “Despite the fact that I was otherwise minded, the Lord has suddenly and unexpectedly contracted a marriage for me with Catharine von Bora, the nun.”[3] As he would later write: “A good wife is not found accidentally and without divine guidance. On the contrary, she is a gift of God and does not come, as the heathen imagine, in answer to our planning and judging.”[4]

And to Leonard Koop, without whom Martin and Katie would not have met, Luther writes: “God has suddenly and unexpectantly caught me in the bond of holy matrimony.[5] I am going to get married. God likes to work miracles and to make a fool of the world.”[6]

And to von Amsdorf:

Indeed, the rumor is true that I was suddenly married to Catherine; [I did this] to silence the evil mouths which are so used to complaining about me. For I still hope to live for a little while. In addition, I also did not want to reject this unique [opportunity to obey] my father’s wish for progeny, which he so often expressed. At the same time, I also wanted to confirm what I have taught by practicing it; for I find so many timid people in spite of such great light from the gospel. God has willed and brought about this step. For I feel neither passionate love nor burning for my spouse, but I cherish her.[7]

We should pause here to examine this final line. Does it indicate that Luther didn’t truly love Katie? It’s difficult to determine the precise intent of Luther’s remark, but it is important to remember that at this point the length of their romance had been exceedingly short! It may have been the case that Luther saw in Katie not someone with whom he felt passionate love, but someone with whom he could foresee passionate love. William Lazareth comments:

Modern marriage counselors probably would have questioned the marriage itself. It was an open secret in Wittenberg that Martin and Katie did not get along very well because of their clashing temperaments and personalities. Certainly they were not romantically in love, and there is no evidence that any kind of courtship preceded their marriage. . . . We have no reason to doubt Luther’s contention that he married primarily as a testimony of faith.[8]

Luther’s comment about cherishing Katherine but not feeling passionate love for her must also be must set within the context of the day and the wagging tongues that were going on all around Luther. Even Luther’s friend Philipp Melanchton—invited neither to the engagement nor to the later public ceremony—suspected that Luther had been taken in by carnal lust:

. . . at this unfortunate time, when good and excellent men everywhere are in distress, he not only does not sympathize with them, but, as it seems, rather waxes wanton and diminishes his reputation, just when Germany has especial need of his judgment and authority. . . . The man is certainly pliable; and the nuns have used their arts against him most successfully; thus probably society with the nuns have softened or even inflamed this noble and high-spirited man.[9]

Erasmus helped spread the slanderous rumor that Katherine had borne Martin’s child two weeks before the ceremony. After their marriage, Duke George the Bearded wrote that Martin and Katherine were “now feasting in carnal lust.”[10] When Katie became pregnant a year later, it was predicted that the union of this monk and this nun would produce a two-headed baby, or the Anticrist. Set within this contentious context, it is perhaps not surprising that Luther wanted to clarify that though he “cherished” his spouse, he was not marrying because of “passionate love,” so as not to add fuel to the fire of this demagoguery.

At 10 am the Luthers and their wedding party traveled from the Black Cloister to the parish church, accompanied by the sounds of bells and pipers, to participate in the public ceremony. The recessional took them back to the Black Cloister, where they had a dinner and then a dance in the town hall. Another banquet followed in the evening, followed by the dismissal of the guests by the magistrates at 11 pm.

A couple of months after the wedding, Luther was still reveling in his marriage—and obviously delighting in the consternation of others toward it:

I have now testified to the gospel not only by word but also by deed: I have married a nun to spite the triumphant enemies who yell “Hurrah, hurrah!” [I have done this] so that it does not seem that I am yielding.[11]

The guests who had been invited to Luther’s wedding had no idea the impact of the event that they witnessed.

Little did the sixteenth-century world realize the tremendous significance—both religious and social—of this simple and reverent ceremony in the backwoods of rural Germany. The union of Martin and Katie was not cursed with the birth of the Antichrist. Instead, it was blessed with the birth of the Protestant parsonage and the rebirth of a genuinely Christian ethos in home and community. Luther’s marriage remains to this day the central evangelical symbol of the Reformation’s liberation and transformation of the Christian daily life.[12]

We now turn to look at their married life together.

[1] SJ 2:322. The parenthetical clause is from another version of this letter. See n. 3.

[2] SJ 2:323-324.

[3] SJ 2:328.

[4] WLS, 906.

[5] SJ 2:328.

[6] Cited in Bainton, Here I Stand, 226.

[7] LW 48:117.

[8] Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home, 22-23.

[9] SJ 2:324-325, my emphasis.

[10] Cited in Markwald, Katharina von Bora, 78.

[11] LW 48:123.

[12] Lazareth, Luther on the Christian Home, vii.