Luther on the Christian Life (8)

In the last chapter of Luther on the Christian Life, Trueman explores Luther’s theology of vocation and family life. Luther’s thought on these areas of the Christian life was truly groundbreaking. Luther’s understanding of vocation, i.e., calling was groundbreaking because he denied the accepted opinion of his day that there are spiritually higher and lower callings in life. The common opinion of the day said that the calling of a civil ruler or officebearer in the church is inherently better and more holy than the ordinary callings that most of God’s people pursue in this life. To be a magistrate was better than being a farmer. To be an officebearer or monk was holier than being a shopkeeper or milkmaid. Luther strongly opposed this idea. In Luther’s view, every calling that accords with God’s law constitutes a holy calling  and can be done for the glory of God. The idea that certain vocations are more holy and spiritual while others are secular and less spiritual was a part of the medieval system of works righteousness against which Luther responded vehemently. All earthly vocations, from the grandest to the humblest, are equal in the eyes of God. What matters is how the Christian lives in the calling the Lord has given him or her. A Christian can serve the Lord as a farmer, a businessman, a magistrate, or a minister, so long as he or she carries out that calling by faith and out of love for God and the neighbor. Luther’s understanding of vocation infuses even the most mundane and menial tasks with spiritual meaning and dignity.

Trueman also discusses Luther’s view of marriage in this chapter. Luther had always held marriage in high esteem. Even during his days in the monastery he had high praise for the love of marriage and the place of the Christian family. With the Reformation’s rejection of mandated clerical celibacy, Luther was able to experience what before he had only been able to reflect on theologically; and his respect for marriage only grew after his own marriage to Catherine Von Bora. Luther regarded marriage as one of the highest expressions of Christian love. And more than that, he regarded the marriage state as a state most holy and proper for the majority of Christians. It was the foundation of fellowship and family, good and blessed by God. Luther honored this institution of God both in his theology and in the way he lived with his beloved wife. For that we can be thankful, for the good doctor contributed much to the restoration of the proper view of marriage to the church. The development of our understanding of Christian marriage owes much to him.

We hope that the summary of this book offered here will encourage others to read it. Trueman’s book is well worth it and will make a worthy addition to anyone’s library. Luther on the Christian Life is highly recommended.

Justin Smidstra

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