MARTIN LUTHER AND HIS ENEMIES - HOW HE CONFRONTED THEM #2
Part of it all is the medieval notion of the Devil's assault on you. Your lying on your death bed. The Devil comes and whispers in your ear: You're a sinner and God wants to condemn you. You've committed this sin and that sin, therefore you should despair and curse God and die. Everyone knows about that. So that's when Luther talks a bout the assaults of the Devil, temptations by the Devil, whispering in your ear, nobody is too surprised by it; luther doesn't have to explain what he means.
But I think there is a distinctive way Luther has about talking about the Devil, pretty much Luther's own. He talks casually about the the theological arguments he's had with the Devil. He's got a lot of experience that way. So one time at the dinner table he said, "Oh yes earlier this morning the Devil was arguing with me about Swingly." He just drops that down and starts talking about something else.
He talks about his battles with the Devil at night, much more bitter than his battles with his enemies during the day. "They only annoy me; they write these insane, stupid theological arguments. And I have to waste my time refuting them. But the Devil, now he confronts me with real theological arguments. The Devil is better with theology than my opponents."
Well.... what experiences with the Devil does he have to say this?
Most strange of all, most striking of all; one treatise he has, a writing against a Catholic practice in the "mass" - in the middle of it he says, "The Devil woke me up in the middle of the night, with this against me." Then there is a five page argument from the Devil. A dead pen argument, where it turns out the Devil is right; you can quote anywhere from the 5 pages and it's Luther's view that is being presented by the Devil. When, at the end, Luther says, "Devil your right; Devil you've got me; that's a good theological argument, I have to repent. I was participating in this Catholic, it was sin, I was wrong. Your right, I was wrong; but I've just confessed my sin, so I win."
WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?
Let me make a few remarks.
Luther does not have any visual sighting of the Devil. No superstitious stuff where you see this darkened, pitch-fork, nothing like that. It's always these argument in the middle of the night. We know Luther was sick during the writing of this treatise, and he changed his mind on these points. We have his outlines, where he actually changes his mind. So in the middle of the night, he listens to the arguments of the Devil, and changes his mind.
WHAT'S THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE?
Well, I think it's what lots of us insomniacs have had. If you are an insomniac and work with words for a living, like myself, you often wake up in the middle of the night with and argument running running in your head; sometimes a critical argument against you, like, "Philip Carly, don't you know these lectures you're going to give for the Teaching Company, is wrong! Look at that text, look at this text, you can't possibly say that's what Luther thought, you've got it all wrong."
You wake up in a sweat, feeling accused, guilty, wrong.
With Luther leading thousands upon thousands of souls, breaking with the Pope, who are you to say you are right? Look at all the Papal traditions, who are you. Look at this argument, look at that argument; look at this Scripture, look at that Scripture.
Luther is good at generating arguments.
I think he did indeed wake up in the middle of the night, with all these theological arguments attacking him. And it's not surprising in the medieval context he attributes all these arguments to the Devil.
That's his experience with the Devil. I think it happens all the time; I think think he respects the Devil a whole lot more than his opponents, for the ones he gets in the middle of the night are better arguments.
So that why Luther so casually talks about his frequent arguments with the Devil.
So then, let's go on to Luther's human opponents, that are more trivial for Luther. He wants to get at their conscience......
TO BE CONTINUED