Posts tagged with: martin luther

Martin Luther: Inventor of Austerity?

Martin Luther: Inventor of Austerity?

On the The Economist’s religion and public policy blog, the writer Erasmus pokes holes in a theory put forth by Giles Fraser, a left wing Anglican priest, who sees conflicting theories of the atonement of Christ as one of the causes of so much misunderstanding in the European Union. Erasmus explains:

… traditional Protestant and Catholic teaching has presented the self-sacrifice of Christ as the payment of a debt to God the Father. In this view, human sinfulness created a debt which simply had to be settled, but could not be repaid by humanity because of its fallen state; so the Son of God stepped in and took care of that vast obligation. For Orthodox theologians, this wrongly portrays God the Father as a sort of heavenly debt-collector who is himself constrained by some iron necessity; they prefer to see the passion story as an act of mercy by a God who is free. Over-simplifying only a little, Mr Fraser observed: “the idea that the cross is some sort of cosmic pay-back for human sin [reflects] a no-pain-no-gain obsession with suffering,” from an eastern Christian viewpoint.

Erasmus rightly describes this sort of thinking as a gross simplification. He quotes the Anglican priest, who said that “capitalism itself was built upon this western model of redemption” and that Angela Merkel is, in a sinister twist, is the daughter of a Lutheran minister. Erasmus: (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

DSC_0700This is a post about that time that President Obama quoted Luther (Martin, the reformer, not the anger translator). Okay, maybe the President didn’t quote the monk with a mallet, but suspend your disbelief for a few more paragraphs at least.

Remember the kerfuffle when President Obama uttered those infamous words, “You didn’t build that”? It was, granted, a long time ago (3 years, in fact). But as I argued at the time, there was some truth in the basic sentiment, even if there was some ambiguity about the President’s intended antecedent.

Lately I ran across this striking passage from one of Martin Luther’s sermons, where he raises the stakes, so to speak, regarding the necessity of civil government for social flourishing. In a 1528 sermon on the Lord’s Prayer, Luther has this to say about the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread”:

When you pray this petition turn your eyes to everything that can prevent our bread from coming and the crops from prospering. Therefore extend your thoughts to all the fields and do not see only the baker’s oven. You pray, therefore, against the devil and the world, who can hinder the grain by tempest and war. We pray also for temporal peace against war, because in times of war we cannot have bread. Likewise, you pray for government, for sustenance and peace, without which you cannot eat: Grant, Lord, that the grain may prosper, that the princes may keep the peace, that war may not break out, that we may give thanks to thee in peace. Therefore it would be proper to stamp the emperor’s or the princes’ coat-of-arms upon bread as well as upon money or coins. Few know that this is included in the Lord’s Prayer. Though the Lord gives bread in sufficient abundance even to the wicked and godless, it is nevertheless fitting that we Christians should know and acknowledge that it comes from God, that we realize that bread, hunger, and war are in God’s hands. If he opens his hand, we have bread and all things in abundance; if he closes it, then it is the opposite. Therefore, do not think that peace is an accidental thing; it is the gift of God. (LW 51:176-177)


A few weeks back, Acton welcomed Gene Edward Veith to the Mark Murray Auditorium as part of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series. This week, I had the opportunity to talk with Veith for this edition of Radio Free Acton. We discuss the influence of the Protestant Reformation on the development of capitalism, Luther’s beliefs on vocation, and how young people can discern their vocations as they contemplate their futures.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below; after the jump, I’ve included the video of Veith’s ALS lecture for those interested in diving deeper into these ideas.


Max Weber’s classic study The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism made the case that the Reformation had a major impact on the rise of free market capitalism. But according to Gene Edward Veith, Weber misunderstood what it was about the Reformation that caused that impact. On February 26th, Veith came to Grand Rapids to talk about what Weber missed in his classic analysis – primarily Martin Luther’s doctrine of vocation, which taught that God is present and active in ordinary economic activity, which becomes a sphere in which Christians can love and serve their neighbors.

Gene Edward Veith is Provost and Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College. He is the author of 18 books on topics involving Christianity and culture, classical education, literature, and the arts. They include Postmodern Times, The State of the Arts, The Spirituality of the Cross, God at Work, Modern Fascism, Classical Education, and Loving God With All Your Mind.

If you prefer, you can stream the audio from the player below, or head over to the Acton Institute digital download store and pick up an mp3 of your very own – you can do that at this link.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The theme for this week’s Acton Commentary, “The Image of God and You,” struck me while I was rocking my baby son in the early morning hours. In the dim light he reached up and gently touched my face, and it occurred to me how parents are so prone to see the image of God in their children. And yet I wondered what it might be like for a child to look into the face of a parent. What would the baby see there?

The face of God, in a way. Or at least, a face of someone created in the image of God. The parental-filial relationship is a leitmotif of Scripture, starting with the trinitarian relationship between Father and Son and then with human society and the trinitarian image of father, mother, and son.

"You're in the image of God! And you're in the image of God! And you're in the image of God!"

“You’re in the image of God! And you’re in the image of God! And you’re in the image of God!”

Sometimes we are so busy affirming the image of God in others that we can forget to realize that we, too, are made in God’s image. The “weight of glory” applies not only to our neighbors but also to ourselves. Maybe what we need sometimes is an Oprah-like moment of affirmation: “You’re in the image of God! And you’re in the image of God! And you’re in the image of God!” And I, too, am in the image of God!

Dorothee Sölle, picking up on a vocational theme found in Martin Luther, once said that “God has no other hands than ours. If the sick are to be healed, it is our hands that will heal them.” There’s a sense in which this is true, in that God has deigned to provide us with the grace and responsibility of work and prayer, what Pascal has called “the dignity of causality.”

But of course God has his own hands, made dirty with the work of healing and pierced for our transgressions. In this way, our image-bearing and calling is always derivative of and oriented to the divine archetype, Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

Refo5002017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church, the event that would eventually lead to what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. In anticipation of this very significant anniversary, churches, seminaries, colleges, and many other organizations have begun the process of examining the events leading up to and flowing out from the reformations of that time, and a great deal of those organizations have joined together to form Refo500, which describes itself as “the international platform for knowledge, expertise, ideas, products and events, specializing in the 500 year legacy of the Reformation.”

Dr. Herman Selderhuis – Director of Refo500 and professor at the Theological University of Apeldoorn in the Netherlands –  was recently our guest here at the Acton Institute, and he took some time to sit down with Paul Edwards and discuss the legacy of the Protestant Reformation and the work of his organization. You can listen via the audio player below.

Uwe Siemon-Netto during the Battle of Huế (1968).

Uwe Siemon-Netto during the Battle of Huế (1968).

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and the end of America’s involvement in Vietnam. Uwe Siemon-Netto, a German, and former journalist for United Press International, covered much of the conflict in Vietnam. He has a new and excellent book titled, Triumph of the Absurd: A Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam. Siemon-Netto is a Lutheran theologian and his extensive background in journalism and theology gives him tremendous credibility in discussing today’s media and culture, a big part of this R&L interview. I admire him for the relative ease in which he stands for truth, and in my opinion I believe students of Luther’s teachings will see a lot of Luther’s best qualities in Siemon-Netto.

David Urban, an English professor at Calvin College, authored a piece on John Milton, liberty, and virtue for Religion & Liberty. It was of course Milton who stressed the notion that true liberty stems “from real virtue.” A longer version of this article appears in the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Mark S. Latkovic reviews The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray and Matthea Brandenburg reviews The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty by Nina Munk. The book by Munk, which has received considerable attention, is a thorough examination of the problems with aid and high minded theories for ending poverty in Africa. Writing in Barron’s, William Easterly titled his review “The Arrogance of Good Intentions.”

The “In the Liberal Tradition” figure is Lebanese diplomat Charles Malik [1906-1986]. Malik drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as the president of the thirteenth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Rev. Robert Sirico offers us his thoughts on the need to lighten our burdens and Kris Mauren, our executive director, gives us an update on the Acton capital campaign.