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Luther and Heraclitus



Luther and Heraclitus

June 12th 2011  by Dr. Peter D. S. Krey

Contraria sunt Complementa: Opposites are complementary

(Atomic Physicist, Niels Bohr Family Motto)[1]

Although they are some two millennia apart, Martin Luther (1483-1546 A.D.) and the Pre-Socratic Philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 540-480 B.C.) have a strong family resemblance, granting the inherent difference of theology for the one and philosophy for the other. Although there is no indication that Heraclitus’ thought influenced Luther, he knew of him. In his Bondage of the Will, in which he argues against Erasmus, Luther compares the obscure definition of Erasmus for the freedom of choice to the aphorisms of the old philosopher, which required double labor on his part to understand.[2]

Luther also taught Aristotle’s Ethics in 1508, according to Heike Oberman,[3] and Aristotle quotes and refers to Heraclitus numerous times in his Nicomachean Ethics. Some citations are, for example: “Heraclitus says, ‘Opposition unites,’ and ‘The fairest harmony springs from difference,’ and ‘[It’s] strife that makes the world go on’” (Book VIII: i.6).[4] Luther probably also read the saying of Heraclitus about a donkey preferring dung to gold in Aristotle; other translations make it “straw versus gold![5] That Luther had some exposure to this Pre-Socratic does not imply, to reiterate, that the latter’s philosophy influenced Luther’s thought in any way.

Nevertheless, to explore the internal affinity of Luther and Heraclitus somewhat farther, the relevant aphorisms or sayings of Heraclitus will be correlated with tendencies that are featured in Luther’s thought. But first, considering theologians and philosophers in general, Luther is also known for many memorable sayings, e.g., “The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.[6] Luther could also take complicated thoughts and put them into a nutshell. (It goes without saying, of course, that he could be notoriously verbose as well! His commentary on a two verse Psalm 117, the shortest one in the Psalter, runs 34 pages in Latin![7]) Nevertheless, Luther could gather a world of meanings into one word and draw the meanings out of the word again: “testament” and “gospel” are examples.[8] Heraclitus, however, wrote only pithy aphorisms, it seems, and all his philosophy has to be drawn from them.

Secondly, both Luther and Heraclitus put opposites together, bringing about the tension that, among other things, produces change. Luther has law and gospel, sinners and saints, sovereign slaves, divine and human, freedom of a Christian and bondage of the will, confident despair, groaning and rapture in the Spirit, etc. His thought is not a cluster of contradictions, but these opposites are placed in tension for the sake of growth and change. Heraclitus, in a similar fashion, also believed that the only constant was change and is known for celebrating paradox with the coincidence and unity of opposites.

The coincidence of opposites is crucial to change on several levels. On a personal level, Carl Gustav Jung considered the tension of opposites crucial psychologically. In his theory of opposites, the transcendent function of these tensions brings growth and maturity.[9] On a religious and sociological level, Luther in the Bondage of the Will writes: “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.[10] Consider some of the changes Luther introduced: a new form of church and government, incorporating the peasants and princes into the priestly estate, dissolution of canon law with two ecclesiastical court systems – leaving full jurisdiction to civil law, the dissolution of monasteries, organizing community chests for social aid, and establishment of public schools. The form of social movements must have some relationship with the form of his dynamic, dialectical thought.

Another peculiarity of Luther’s thought is that he places all things into faith so all things proceed from it.[11] For Heraclitus, all things come out of fire and return to it, as gold can change into all things and all things can change back into gold.[12] (Heraclitus is thinking of gold as money.) Similarly, Luther declares that all the commandments flow out of the first commandment and return into it. And “Faith goes out into works and through works comes back to itself again, just like the sun goes forth to its setting and comes again at its rising.”[13]

Both Heraclitus and Luther certainly love the truth that resides in paradox. Heraclitus said that everything changes but change itself. His antagonist, the Pre-Socratic, Parmenides (515-ca.450 BCE), in opposition to Heraclitus, reasoned that everything stays the same. Nothing changes. For Parmenides the whole world of change, experience, and the senses was blocked out or was deemed an illusion, because only reason provided reliable knowledge.[14] “What is is and what is not is not,” he reasoned, and therefore, not believing in a void—which for us might be analogous to space—there could only be being and it did not have room to move, because non-being was not there for it to move into. “Nothing” had no attributes and therefore could not exist. Therefore, according to Parmenides, there could be no becoming, no motion and no change.

On the other hand, Heraclitus, coming somewhat before Parmenides, believed that all things were in flux. He said that you cannot step into the same river twice, because different water will be flowing by each time you enter.[15] As soon as change is felt to be real, then permanence has to be presupposed, and oppositions already crowd into reasoning. To say that the only constant is change presents a self-reflexive opposition right in the main thesis of Heraclitus. Change is not a constant and a constant is not a change, unless an in-folding into an internal dimension takes place via the reflexive,[16] or otherwise, a continuum is presented, e.g., up is the same as down if they are the same road[17] or a process of development is involved, e.g., night and day, both make up one day. The tension between opposites, that raises havoc with non-dialectical reasoning, is right in Heraclitus’ saying as well.

For the pure reasoning of Parmenides, which discounts the experiences of the senses, “the only constant is change” contains an internal contradiction, because a change is not a constant and vice versa. Heraclitus believed that change was ultimate and the experience of permanence was appearance rather than reality.[18] He said, “The things I rate highly are those which are accessible to sight, hearing, [and] apprehension.[19] Notice that he did not include reasoning. But he says, “Eyes and ears are bad witnesses for [people] if they have souls which cannot understand their language.”[20] What the eyes and ears, that is, what the senses are saying to a person should not be fooled by appearances, but the speech (logos) of hidden reality must be heard and understood.

Because Heraclitus emphasized the unity of opposites, Aristotle complained that he broke the law of non-contradiction.[21] Luther’s opponents also claimed he taught nothing but a pack of contradictions. For example, Johannes Heigerlin Fabri, the Bishop of Vienna, wrote to Cardinal Marone, recommending Cochlaeus be invited to the Council of Trent, because of his knowledge “of Luther’s self-contradictions.[22]

Dialectical thinking places a thesis in tension with an anti-thesis, which becomes a synthesis. The latter becomes a thesis and the thought or life process starts all over again. Its logic is one of life and development, not one of static abstract reasoning. Both types of logic are needed to complement each other.

For example, Luther said that the church is where the Word of God is proclaimed and the sacraments are duly administered.[23] The proclamation of the Word of God brings forth the church. It is born from the Word, so to speak. The church always also requires reformation, ecclesia semper reformanda. The reality is that when the church changes, it remains the same. If it refuses to change then it loses its way. The more it changes, the more it stays the same, i.e., true to the Spirit for which Christ sent it. The more it stays the same, the more it changes and distorts the message of Christ.[24]

Mindful of this reality, Luther said, “The doctors try to make me a fixed star. But I am a [wandering] planet![25] In Luther’s “War on the Turks” he wrote that one of the articles for which he was condemned by the pope, stated:

“To fight against the Turks is the same as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this rod.” I do not hesitate to admit that this article is mine and that I stated it and defended it at the time; and if things in the world were in the same state now that they were in then, I would still have to hold and defend it. But it is not fair to forget what the situation was then and what my grounds and reasons were, and to take my words and apply them to another situation where those grounds and reasons do not exist. With this kind of skill who could not make the gospel a pack of lies, or pretend that it contradicted itself?[26]

Whether it is a position taken, a person, or a church going through different times, they have to change to stay the same.

Heraclitus’ sayings present many more parallels with Luther. For example, he taught that reality liked to conceal itself and that wisdom does not come from factual information, but requires seeing the hidden meaning behind appearances.[27] Luther has a similar conception of hiddenness in his Theology of the Cross. In explaining Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, where he first introduces this theology, Timothy Lull states that Luther makes clear that the ways of God are hidden from us:

Therefore the true theologian is not the one who argues from visible and evident things (following Aristotle), but rather the one who has learned from the cross that the ways of God are hidden (deus absconditus), even in the revelation of Jesus Christ.[28]

That Heraclitus is called “the Obscure” and “the Dark One” may relate to his conviction that realities like to conceal themselves and not only that it requires “hard labor” to unravel the meanings inside his aphorisms. Luther’s Theology of the Cross is first presented here in the Heidelberg Disputation. Similarly he speaks about God’s ways as being hidden from us, like realities for Heraclitus, although Luther’s hiddenness is much more complex in terms of suffering, extinguishing desires, and exploring foolishness for the sake of wisdom. Luther liked to play the fool in order to dumbfound those who consider themselves wise. Thus his wisdom is hidden under foolishness and God’s foolishness turns out to be wiser than human wisdom.[29]

Heraclitus, however, does not limit himself to natural science or natural philosophy, as it was formerly called. He is also the first systematic moral philosopher. He said, “The run of the mill people are as unaware of their actions while awake as they are of what they do while asleep.” [30] Heraclitus thought that we needed an awakening, the fire in our souls giving us enlightenment, because even while awake, we were still sleeping.

Heraclitus also said, “The universe for those who are awake is single and common; while asleep each person turns aside into a private universe.”[31] For Luther sin is to become self-absorbed, turned in upon oneself (curvatus in se), instead of being turned upward to God and outward toward the neighbor.[32] In the “Freedom of a Christian” he states, “God’s possessions must flow from one person into another and be [held] in common.”[33] Heraclitus described most people as bad; few are good. Luther said that a Christian was a rare bird.

Heraclitus said that one man was worth ten thousand, as far as he was concerned, if he was outstanding.[34] “For banishing Hermodorus, who was the best man among them,” he said, “the Ephesians deserve to be hanged, every last one of them, and to leave the city to boys. They said, ‘Let no single one of us be best, or let him be so elsewhere, among others.’”[35]

Luther had the same feeling about persons specially called and filled by the grace of God. He speaks of them as miracle-men (Wundermänner) and we could add wonder-women. “God wants to be free to give such miraculous people, such jewels, when, where, and to whom [God] chooses.”[36] In all walks of life, some will be more skillful than others. “There will be a lad or an apprentice who learns more in one day than another learns in five years.”[37] For example, Luther continued, the Elector Frederick, the Wise was like that, “because, one of the wonder-men is what he was and what he was created to be.”[38] In a classic flourish thereafter he says, “For, every once in a while I think, governments and jurists may well need a Luther.”[39]

On the other hand, this aristocratic sentiment was balanced by Heraclitus’ saying, “Everyone has the potential for sound knowledge and sound thinking.[40] And Luther taught the priesthood of all believers. Also that all believers are theologians: Oswald Bayer claims that for Luther suffering is the work of God in us. Having the receptive life for God’s grace, and being interpreted by God’s Word, gives us a theological life.[41] In a sense then, all Christians, according to Luther, having God’s life and thought within them, are theologians.

We all know about the lack of diplomacy on Luther’s part, how polemical he could be, how his thought, life, and legacy just proceeds from one fight to the next. Let Heraclitus explain: “The conflict between opposites is necessary and good.”[42] Those who prefer stability and peace are ‘tender minded’ individuals (whom Heraclitus despised), while those who relish change and strife are ‘hard headed’ realists.”[43] Heraclitus believed that “war is common, strife is justice, and everything happens according to strife and necessity.”[44] “Our advocate system of law” William Lawhead explains, “illustrates [Heraclitus’] point that justice is strife. Through the conflict of two opposing lawyers, we believe that truth and justice will emerge.” [45] It is no secret that Luther believed in the conflict theory of atonement, where the end-time struggle, the great duel, mentioned in the “Freedom of a Christian,” would take place between the Anti-Christ and Christ, the devil and God.

Heraclitus did not only concern himself with natural science, he also thought a great deal about the Logos, a word in Greek that is very hard to define, because it means so many things. William Lawhead defines it as

a very rich Greek word that can mean speech, discourse, word, explanation, reason, order…. Heraclitus believed that logos was the rational principle that permeated all things….Christian writers identified it with God or Christ.[46]

According to Epicharmus of Syracuse Heraclitus said,

The logos guides [people] and keeps them always on the straight and narrow. A [human being] has reasoning, but there is also divine logos [or Word]. Human reasoning is born from the divine logos.”[47]

It is not so farfetched to relate Luther’s Theology of the Word with Heraclitus’ teaching about the divine Logos. Heraclitus, in common with Luther, emphasizes the hearing and speaking of it. In his pamphlet of 1522 “Avoiding [Human] Doctrines,” Luther contrasts human with divine teaching, i.e., the Word of God, here understood as Scripture. In Latin the title identifies human teaching with traditions and customs: “De Humanis Traditionibus Vitandis.[48] Notice the way Luther presents the conflict as uncompromisingly as Heraclitus:

We hope that everyone will agree with the decision that [human teachings] must be forsaken and the Scriptures retained. For they will neither desire nor be able to keep both, since the two cannot be reconciled and are by nature necessarily opposed to one another, like fire and water, like heaven and earth. As Isaiah puts it, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways” (55:9). Now he who walks on the earth cannot at the same time walk in heaven, and he who walks in heaven cannot walk on earth.[49]

The point taken, however, is about eating fish on Fridays, eating or not eating eggs versus living a genuine Christian life guided and directed, as Heraclitus would put it, by the divine Logos. But conflict is so very pronounced in those words!

Of course, while comparing the sayings of Heraclitus and the theology of Luther, worlds of difference remain between Greek religion and its critique by the Pre-Socratics and the Early Modern religious renewal in Christianity. When presenting a correlation of Heraclitus and Luther the operative words need to be mutatis mutandis, that is, granting that a mutual set of changes have to be considered. Two sayings will suffice to show the utter disparity between the two religions and worlds. Heraclitus observes the devotees to Dionysus:

If the procession they perform, and the hymn they chant in honor of the phallus, were not undertaken for Dionysus, there would be nothing more disgraceful. But in fact, Dionysus, for whom they rave and celebrate the Lenaea, is the same as Hades.[50]

Because of Greek puns Heraclitus is making on several words, he is obliquely castigating that kind of worship, Lenaea being one of the main festivals for the god, Dionysus. Hades stands for death and drunkenness brings about a moist soul, and souls have to be filled by fire for Heraclitus. To use a colloquialism, in fact he is saying that they are all wet.[51]

It is true that in some places Germans danced around the May-pole in Luther’s time, but drunkenness and the dancing around the phallus of a god, certainly did not require Luther’s reforming. Quite the contrary, virginity was valued in Christianity and although drunkenness was a German problem at the time, it was not in any way part of worship, let alone a frenzied worship.

Heraclitus clearly identifies the Logos with ever-living fire, for both have the attributes of a singular divinity, according to William Lawhead.[52] What did Heraclitus really mean by “fire”? Fire did change everything, destroying all things when it burned them. But he also has creative fire in mind, which makes one think of the burning bush that did not consume its branches, out of which God, Yahweh,[53] meaning “I am who I am,” spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2ff.). Werner Heisenberg felt that Heraclitus meant energy by “fire,” and energy changes into matter and back into energy, always remaining constant.[54]

But for this fire to be the logos it has to be more than energy. Could Heraclitus’ creative fire resemble Luther’s faith as the power of God at work in and through us? “Faith goes out into works and through works comes back to itself again, just like the sun goes forth to its setting and comes again at its rising.” [55] So all things proceed out of faith and return in faith. Heraclitus said, The logos always was and is and shall be an ever-living fire, flaring up at regular measures [like the death of stars, i.e., as super novae] and dying down in regular measures [like the birth of stars].”[56] But through Jesus Christ, by grace burning with faith, the children of God arise and light up this world, like Heraclitus of old, and Luther, in much more recent times. For the friends of God are like the sun/Son when she rises in all her splendor! (Judges 5:31)


Primary Sources

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass:Harvard University Press, 1926, 1994.

Borcherdt, H.H. and Georg Merz, editors. Martin Luthers Ausgewählte Werke, vol. 5, Zweite veränderte Auflage, (München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1936).

Lehmann, Helmut T., editor. Luther’s Works. Vol. 31, 33, 35, 44, 45, and 46. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. Luther’s Works Vol. 13. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956.

Krey, Philip D.W. and Peter D.S., editors. Luther’s Spirituality. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2007.

Lull, Timothy. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989.

Luther, Martin. D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Vol. 5, Weimar, 1983-1993. (WA = Weimar Ausgabe).

Luther, Martin. Tischreden, 6 volumes. Weimar: Hermann Boehlaus und Nachfolger,  1983-1995. (I used Table Talks, Vol. 5).

Porter, J.M., editor. Luther: Selected Political Writings. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957.

Waterfield, Robin. The First Philosophers: the Presocratics and the Sophists, Oxford University Press, 2000.

Secondary Sources

Asendorf, Ulrich. Luther und Hegel. The subtitle translates to “An Investigation for the Foundation of a New Systematic Theology.” Wiesbaden: VIEG 107, 1982.

Bagchi, David V.N. Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518-1515. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989.

Bayer, Oswald. Theology the Lutheran Way. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Oswald Bayer and Christian Knudsen. Kreuz und Kritik. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1983.

Campbell, Joseph, editor. The Portable Jung. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. New York: Penguin Books, 1971.

Engel, S. Morris. The Study of Philosophy, 5th Edition. San Diego, California: Collegiate Press, 2002.

Gritsch, Eric W. Martin – God’s Court Jester: Luther in Retrospect. 2nd ed. Ramsey, NJ: Sigler Press, 1990.

Hagen, Kenneth. A Theology of Testament in the Young Luther: the Lectures on Hebrews. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974.

Krey, Peter D. S. “Kant‘s Groundwork of a Metaphysic of Morals and Luther‘s Freedom of a Christian.” May 13th 2002. www.peterkrey.wordpress.com

Krey, Peter D. S. Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron: Word of God, Scripture, Gospel, and Law in Luther’s Most Often Published Pamphlets (1520-1525)” Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2001.

Lawhead, William F. The Voyage of Discovery: a Historical Introduction to Philosophy, Second Edition. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2002.

Price, Joan A. Philosophy through the Ages. Belmont, California: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2000.

Marx, Karl. “Theses on Ludwig Feuerbach (1845).” Marx and Engels Works Archive: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm

Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: the Christian between God and Death. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Oberman, Heike. Luther: Man between God and the Devil. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982, 1989.

Palmer, Donald. Looking at Philosophy: the Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter. 4th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Phenomenon of Man. London and New York: Wm. Collins Sons & Company and Harper Row Publishers, Inc., 1959.



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[1] The motto in Niels Bohr Coat of Arms: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_Arms_of_Niels_Bohr.svg

[2] Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, vol. 33, (Philadelphia: Fortress press, 1972), page 104. Erasmus’ definition is: “By free choice in this place we mean a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal life, or turn away from them” (pages 102-103). Luther claimed that “the following [parts of Erasmus’ definition] are like blindfolded gladiators: “to apply,” “to the things which lead,” and “to turn away” (page 104). He continues: “For I first have to go nervously…in quest for my adversary, and unless I find him I shall be tilting at ghosts and beating at the air in the dark. Then if I manage to drag him into the light, I shall have to come to grips with him on equal terms when I am already weary with looking for him” (104). Heraclitus would have been happy if this had been a description of himself.

[3] Heike Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982, 1989), page 139.

[4] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1926, 1994), page 455.

[5] Robin Waterfield, The First Philosophers: the Presocratics and the Sophists, (Oxford University Press, 2000), page 32 and 39.  Waterfield speaks of resonance among Heraclitus’ sayings. A donkey preferring dung to gold comes right after “It is not better for [people] to get everything they want.”

[6] This one is written in the Bondage of the Will against Erasmus: LW 33:24. A book could be written filled with Luther’s sayings, e.g., (Forgive me for this one:) “You can’t get a happy fart out of a sad ass.” Luther has humor in his writings as well. Just to think of another about thoughts going through your mind: “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can surely stop one from building a nest in your hair!” and “What would you do if you knew the world would end tomorrow?” Luther answered, “I would plant an apple tree.” This saying has not yet been found in the Luther corpus.

[7] LW 14: XI and for the Weimar Edition of his works: Martin Luther, D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Vol. XXXI-1, (Weimar, 1983-1993), pages 223-257. (Henceforth WA = Weimar Edition).

[8] Kenneth Hagen wrote this in his book, A Theology of Testament in the Young Luther: the Lectures on Hebrews, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974).

Also see my dissertation: Peter Krey, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron: Word of God, Scripture, Gospel, and Law in Luther’s Most Often Published Pamphlets (1520-1525)” (Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2001), footnote no. 318 on page 265.

The Lutheran Enlightenment thinker, Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) exaggerated this trait of Luther’s in Greek words like pathema : mathema, that is, learning and knowledge are derived from suffering and experience – as a critique of rationalism: see Oswald Bayer and Christian Knudsen, Kreuz und Kritik, (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1983), page 101.

[9] Joseph Campbell, editor, The Portable Jung, translated by R.F.C. Hull, (New York: Penguin Books, 1971), page 298.

[10] LW 33: 52. Luther has a caveat however: “It is one thing to change and quite another to make an improvement; the one stands in human hands and God’s ordaining, the other in God’s hands and gracious favor.” Commentary on Psalm 101,(1534)” H.H. Borcherdt and Georg Merz, editors, Martin Luthers Ausgewählte Werke, vol. 5, Zweite veränderte Auflage, (München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1936), p. 428. Or see LW 13:217. The above is my translation. For the Weimar Edition of Luthers Werke, (WA) 51:200-264.

Compare this dictum of Martin Luther with that of Karl Marx in his Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point however is to change it.” See http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm Marx and Engels Works Archive, written by Karl Marx in 1845.

[11] Peter and Philip Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2007), page 74. Note that this resembles the way Hegel has the whole creation proceed out of the Trinity and return into it.

[12] I’ve put Heraclitus here into more understandable words.

[13] From Luther’s Treatise on Good Works, LW 44:79.

[14] Way back when reasoning was young, the pure reasoning of Parmenides quickly became problematic by claiming that experienced reality was illusory. Heraclitus basks in that reality and claims pure reasoning to be delusion. Luther is a kindred spirit of his, always harping on experience. “Not grasping [material], reading, and speculation, but living, nay, dying and being damned, make a theologian.” WA 5:163.28f. (1519). Luther often rejects empty presumptuous speculation and underscores experience.

[15] Waterfield, page 41.

[16] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, (London and New York: Wm. Collins Sons & Company, Ltd. And Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1959): “Coextensive with their Without, there is a Within of things,” according to Teilhard (page 56). Thus when referring to such different dimensions contradictions are only apparent. Teilhard writes that “the within, consciousness, and then spontaneity [are] three expressions for the same thing” (page 57). When Teilhard speaks of the birth of life and the birth of thought, which can be extrapolated to the birth of love, then all are involved with a reflexivity of something turning in upon itself. Teilhard writes: “the growth of the ‘within’ only takes place thanks to a doubly related involution, the coiling up of the molecule upon itself and the coiling up of the planet upon itself.” And he notes: “Precisely the conditions we find later on, at the end of evolution, presiding over the genesis of the ‘noosphere’ (page 73). Teilhard posits the noosphere as the envelope of mind or consciousness circling the planet. Perhaps the brain with its involutions is analogous for reflexivity of matter, life, speech, thought, and self-knowledge. It is strange that this turning in upon the self is also a definition of sin.

[17] Waterfield, page 39.

[18] William F. Lawhead, The Voyage of Discovery: a Historical Introduction to Philosophy, Second Edition, (Stamford, CT: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2002), page 17.

[19] Waterfield, page 41.

[20] Ibid., page 40.

[21] Ibid., page 33.

[22] David V.N. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518-1515, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), page 229.

[23] Roughly, from Melanchthon’s Augsburg Confession, Article VI: “The Church.”

[24] We often hear the expression: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

[25] Luthers Werke, Weimar Ausgabe, Tisch Reden (Table Talks), vol. 5, no. 5378. (or WATR 5) It is not in LW vol. 54, Table Talks, in English.

[26] LW 46, page 162.

[27] Lawhead, page 17. Lawhead calls him a “lover of paradoxes,” page 16.

[28] Timothy Lull, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), page 10. For the theses in question, see LW 31, page 40, nos. 19 and 20.

[29] See Gritsch, Eric W. Martin – God’s Court Jester: Luther in  Retrospect. 2nd ed. Ramsey, NJ: Sigler Press, 1990. “I shall for the time become a court-jester…no one need buy me a cap or put a scissors to my head.” Luther in “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the [Improvement] of the Christian Estate.” See LW 44:123.

[30] Waterfield, page 37.

[31] Ibid., page 38.

[32] Luther felt that the use of Aristotle distorted Christian theology and ethics in medieval Christianity. (See LW 31, page 41ff.)

Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover for Luther was a totally self-absorbed God; (see Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), pages 31-32), who did not resemble the compassionate God who sent Moses to free the oppressed Hebrew slaves and who loved the world so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ so that through faith we would not perish but receive everlasting life (John 3:16).

[33] Peter and Philip Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, page 89.

[34] Waterfield, page 45.

[35] Ibid.

[36] LW 13: 157. “Luther’s commentary on Psalm 101 is a Mirror for Princes. Where Luther calls the late Duke Frederick, Elector of Saxony, a “Wonder-man” the LW translates him saying, “extraordinary leader.” Luther is speaking about what Nietzsche referred to as a superman, but in a religious sense, a person, who is filled with grace, given as a gift of God to people of a particular time. See Borcherdt and Merz, Martin Luthers Ausgewählte Werke, page 363.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid., LW page 158 and in German, page 364.

[39] Ibid., LW page 217 and LW, page 427.

[40] Waterfield, page 41.

[41] Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way, page 15 and 36.

[42] Lawhead, page 18.

[43] Ibid., page 19.

[44] Waterfield, page 40.

[45] Lawhead, page 19.

[46] Ibid.,page 575.

[47] Waterfield, page 32, footnote 2.

[48] Peter Krey, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron, page 69.

[49] LW 35: 153.

[50] Waterfield, page 46.

[51] Ibid., page 318.

[52] Lawhead, page 19.

[53] When Moses pressed God to tell him God’s name, God said “I am who I am.” The tetragrammaton, i.e., the four letter word, YHVH or YHWH, (“W” is pronounced like a “V” in German.) – is the one to which we add vowels, making it Yahweh. It can mean “I will be with you” or “I will appear to you in any form that I will appear” or “I am the one who calls you into existence.” There are also many more conjectures for the meaning of the name. Because the Name was too holy to pronounce and the Masoretic vowels were added much later, the precise pronunciation of the name is also unknown. When the Name appeared, Adonai, i.e., my Lord, would be said. Also involved, of course, is the commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain.

[54] S. Morris Engel, The Study of Philosophy, 5th Edition, (San Diego, California: Collegiate Press, 2002), page 32.

[55] From Luther’s Treatise on Good Works, LW 44:79.

[56] Heraclitus said, “Mortals are immortal and immortals are mortal, the one living the other’s death and dying the other’s life.” From Joan A. Price, Philosophy through the Ages, (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2000), page 12.) The dying star flares into the supernova, the birth of a star when gases gather is dim. Why should he say gods are mortal? I cannot explain that. But in the Christian tradition, the death of Christ spells life for believers.

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