Thursday, September 12, 2013

Theologia Germanica / Works of Love

Martin Luther

Theologia Germanica

Written around 1350 by an anonymous author, the Theologia Germanica (or German Theology) was extremely influential on Martin Luther. After diving into it, I'm beginning to understand why. The author emphasizes man's total incapacity to reach God. The only stage that man can reach on his own is despair, what the author calls "hell." The work sharply divides between the eternal and temporal and has a real Neo-Platonist flavor to it. Because of this, the author emphasizes self-denial and suffering.

From Chapter 16

It is important to note, believe, and know that no life on this earth was as noble, good, and dear to God as the life of Christ but that it was at the same time most bitter to human nature and self.

The opposite kind of life, the careless, free life, is most sweet and most pleasant to nature, self, and the I. But it is not the best and the noblest. In many people it becomes the extreme of wickedness.

Although Christ's life was the most bitter of all, it is paradoxically the dearest.

The Temptation of Christ


I am not at a stage of life where I feel I can speak with confidence, at least not on most things. However, in our haste to distance ourselves from Medieval piety, I think we often miss the blessing that suffering is. Most people will agree that the end of suffering can be and often is a good thing, but, while I can't fully articulate it, I wonder if we can separate the end from the process. However we phrase it, I think that we need to embrace suffering. At the very least, I think Christianity would be wise to mention fasting more often and to acknowledge the need for physical discipline in becoming pure.


I'm indebted to the preface of The Theologia Germanica.

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