Another New Volume of Luther's Works with Comments relating to the RPW
- Concordia has just released Volume 1 of the newly translated Prefaces of Martin Luther. Back at the end of last year I posted with a section from volume 2 that included some language supporting the Regulative Principle of Worship. In this more recent volume the principle again receives support in Martin Luther's treatment of monasticism.
Of course, Monasticism involves the additional serious problem of monastic vows, which in themselves constitute reason for all of Christ's servants to reject such a life. But even abstracting the vows, and the pretensions associated with obliging ourselves to do what the Lord has not called us to do; it still remains that all religious service must be regulated by the revealed will of God, and that a system of religious service instituted without his direction cannot constitute true religion.
So when it came to monasticism, Luther and the Lutherans used to see this matter very clearly. It has since become common to summarize the difference between Lutheran and Reformed Worship as involving the Lutherans in the position of maintaining that "whatever is not forbidden is allowed." Perhaps it is true for later Lutheran churches, but their early confessional standards are not quite so boldly papistical; and such a view is far from what Luther expresses below, and in a number of his other writings.
The following little excerpt is offered for review purposes, as a hint at what sort of material may be found in this new volume; but while the reader considers Luther's argumentation, it is suggested that he contemplate also how perfectly these arguments may be applied to the question of other unbiblical modes of worship, such as the singing of non-canonical hymns (i.e. hymns other than the 150 Psalms) and the celebration of unscriptural holydays (x-mass, easter, ascension day, etc.) More ridiculous modes of "worship", such as plays, concerts, and puppet shows will fit into the argument with less frequent objections and excuses; but probably there are some modern Lutherans (and others) that would benefit from making that application as well.
But in things above (that is, with God), God has never allowed nor does He now allow such activity. Rather, here, whatever is to be done ought to be done only with the certain and express command of God, because a human being, of himself, does not know the things that are above him, that is, what God wills, unless He has revealed Himself by His Word, just as the things that are below man do not know what man wills unless he has manifested himself to them by a sign, such as by striking, reining them in, loosening their reins, etc. Therefore, here, it is not enough to say, "It is not prohibited in Holy Scriptures," but one must say, "This is commanded." Or, rather, by the very fact that it is not commanded, it is truly prohibited, since man is not allowed to govern himself [in things] above himself, where government belongs to God alone. For in doing so, he, together with Lucifer, usurps the seat of God for himself [Isa. 14.12-13], and together with Adam wants to be equal to God [Gen. 3.5-6]. This is why in Moses [his writings], wherever there are things to be done pertaining to God, the following words are repeated so often and with great verbosity, yet out of the highest necessity: "the Lord spoke; the Lord said; thus the Lord appointed; thus the Lord commanded." And nothing at all there is carried out without a preceding word of the Lord. Indeed, in Deuteronomy 12 [:4,8] it is said, "You shall not do with regard to the Lord your God what seems right to you," as if to say: "You shall do what seems right to you in things below, but not to the Lord who is above. On the contrary, you shall shall permit the Lord to do unto you what seems right to Him." Thus Nadab and Abihu were burned up by the Lord's fire for no sin at all except that they, as Moses writes, performed the best work without the Lord's commandment [Lev. 10:1-2].Other Prefaces in the volume relate to a variety of items, including Luther's controversy with Karlstadt. Luther professes to intend to act the part of a Christian towards this his "enemy". Those who desire to make any fair study of this controversy should refer to a volume published by Herald Press (Mennonite) titled "The Essential Carlstadt" from their series "Classics of the Radical Reformation".
And what is all prophecy---even the whole of Scripture---but that we should not do anything good in God's sight without the certain command of God? Therefore, let Schatzgeyer the Miserable stop boasting that monasticism is not contrary to God. If it is not contrary to God, we confess that we, too, are *for* God. Now, then, by the very fact that it is without the Word of God, it is against God. Accordingly, he ought not to have proved that nothing in Holy Writ was expressly said about monasticism, but that something was said concerning it; he should have proved the affirmative, not the negative.
Above quote excerpted from Luther's Works, Volume 59: Prefaces I, pages 30-31.