Is Luther too risky with his language

I came across this quote from Luther in another blog and I thought it was good so I thought I’d re-blog it. But then it got me thinking about it. I know Luther loved to be shocking in his language and his constant references to his bowels can raise an eyebrow – but what do you think of this?

In this sort of temptation and struggle, contempt is the best and easiest method of winning over the devil. Laugh your adversary to scorn and ask who it is with whom you are talking. But by all means flee solitude, for the devil watches and lies in wait for you most of all when you are alone. This devil is conquered by mocking and despising him, not by resisting and arguing with him. Therefore, Jerome, joke and play games with your wife and others. In this way you will drive out your diabolical thoughts and take courage
Be of good courage, therefore, and cast these dreadful thoughts out of your mind. Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some infraction in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. We shall be overcome if we worry too much about falling into some sin.
Accordingly if the devil should say, “Do not drink,” you should reply to him, “On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount.” Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often, if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me.

Is he right?
What is the difference between conscience and the Devil’s lies that drive us to despair?
How do I know when to stop and when to ignore?
Interested in all input…



6 Responses

  1. Ben Parker says:

    IMO he is wrong. To suggest that because that there is any excuse for drinking too much etc seems to be me to be wrong no matter what spiritual language you use.

    The solution to the devils accusations is not drink, or food, or jest but the cross of Christ. A verse about not being filled with wine but instead the Holy Spirit springs to mind.

    As for the difference between conscience and the devil. Maybe conscience is what drives you to repentance. The devil is what torments us after our repentance.

  2. michael says:

    Ben Parker vs Luther… there’s a heavyweight contest!

    I’m not sure what I think about the quote you’ve posted Paul, but I was thinking a while ago about the Luther quote “sin boldly”. I was thinking about it in terms of not “sin on purpose” but being brutaly honest about our sin in the face of accusation, which puts the focus back onto God’s grace.

    Reading this quote make me think that maybe I was wrong with my interpretation of what he meant when he said “sin boldly”

    Don’t know whether this makes much sense or not! Next time can you start a discussion on another classic Luther quote such as: “If I break wind in Wittenberg they smell it in Rome.”?

  3. Paul Lintott says:

    Ben – I like the conscience/devil distinction.

    Michael – Don’t get me started on the flatulence quotes; I’ll get myself into trouble.

  4. Luther’s absolutely got grace hasn’t he. When the apostle Paul talks about grace, he has to clarify what he’s saying with ‘don’t sin more that grace may abound more’, as though that’s what the logical consequence is. The obvious conclusion to grace is (almost) ‘it’s ok to sin, because it’s all about grace’.

    But, clearly, that isn’t actually the obvious logical consequence to grace… that’s why Paul spends time telling us so.

    I think Ben’s basically hit the metaphorical nail on the head (perhaps the literal one too – but unlikely, as it’s Ben!). We are to counter the devil, yes, but we are also to mortify sin, and to depend on God in both of those things. In the end, we don’t sin by… choosing not to sin (profound, I know). But we choose not to sin in the context of dependance on God, being focussed on the cross, having conviction that sin is bad and all of that – it’s in these that we get the power to overcome sin, but in the end we have to just choose righteousness over sinfulness.

    P.S. Ben Parker vs Luther… Ben Parker every time.

  5. Daniel says:

    It does seem like a bit of an over-reaction to that catholic legalism. C.S Lewis’ two errors spring to mind. With legalism as one error and sinning that Grace may abound on the other. Jesus said its better to die than sin and you don’t get that feeling from Luther. However. Although Luther didn’t have perfect theology, who does. God used him gloriously. Basically Ben was right.

  6. Richard says:

    Taking Ben’s points on drunkeness into account and leaving the potty talk to one side I think there is a lot of wisdom in Luther’s advice about solitude.

    I agree that the Devil does make work for idle hands and it’s better to flee temptation then enter into discource with Satan.

    I don’t think it is our place to mock or belittle Satan, while he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, even the angel Michael was wary about getting into a debate or fight with Satan and went to God.

    But to engage in merriment, or simply to spend time with Christians, surrounding yourself with likeminded people and to have some fun – I think it’s great advice, so long as we don’t run from one trap straight into another

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