Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is My Desk "Captive to the Word of God"?

I actually have two desks facing each other in my work area at home (plus several filing cabinets and bookshelves). On one of these desks I do most of my work: sermon prep, lecture prep, grading papers, secular computer work, paying bills, etc. My other desk was intended to be used as a secondary work area when I had multiple activities going on at once.

Well, I turned around and the state of my second desk finally hit me. What a mess! On its surface are folders containing notes, several books (many of them Bible translations or Scripture related), pictures, pens, pamphlets, church items, and homeschooling software. I can barely see the desktop itself!

This is NOT what I mean by the title of this blog: "Captive to the Word of God". Yet, that is almost how I feel when I look at this desk, namely, a captive! It is time to put some of the folders into my filing cabinets, books back into their shelves, and the "junk" into the trash can.

The title of the blog actually refers to a statement made by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. His remark reflects my desire to be like him in this sense: may every step of my life be so governed by God's Word that I become a captive to that Word.

Appearing before members of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in the German city of Worms, the exchange provoking Luther's statement went something like this:

Archbishop of Trier, Eck (pointing to books on a table): "Are these your writings?"

Luther: "The books are all mine, and I have written more."

Eck: "Do you defend them all, or do you care to reject a part?"

Luther: "Most serene emperor, most illustrious princes, most clement lords, if I have not given some of you your proper titles I beg you to forgive me. I am not a courtier, but a monk. You asked me yesterday whether I would repudiate them. They are all mine, but as for the second question, they are not all of one sort. Some deal with faith and life so simply and evagelically that my very enemies are compelled to regard them as worthy of Christian reading. Even the bull itself does not treat all my books as of one kind. If I should renounce these, I would be the only man on earth to damn the truth confessed alike by friends an foes. A second class of my works inveighs against the desolation of the Christian world by the evil lives and teaching of the papists. Who can deny this when the universal complaints testify that by the laws of the popes the consciences of men are racked?"

Emperor Charles V: "No!"

Luther: "Should I recant at this point, I would open the door to more tyranny and impiety, and it will be all the worse should it appear that I had done so at the instance of the Holy Roman Empire. A third class contains attacks on private individuals. I confess I have been more caustic than comports with my profession, but I am being judged, not on my life, but for the teaching of Christ, and I cannot renounce these works either, without increasing tyranny and impiety. ... I commend myself to Your Majesty. May you not suffer my adversaries to make you ill disposed to me without cause. I have spoken."

Eck: "Martin, you have not sufficiently distinguished your works. The earlier were bad and the latter worse. Your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always made by heretics. You do nothing but renew the errors of Wyclif and Hus. ... Martin, how can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? ... I ask you, Martin--answer candidly and without horns--do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?"

Luther: "Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

April 18, 1521 (taken primarily from Bainton's work "Here I Stand", pp. 141-144).

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