Freedom of a Christian #2
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
As educators in a Lutheran school we know how important it is to encourage students to learn through making mistakes, to move through those times of feeling stuck, to step out of the learning pit, and be challenged, to question, to reflect, and grow in resilience and mindset. Luther knew how important these aspects were in learning, not just in the classroom but also in the Christian faith. Luther emphasized that as Christians we learn through our trials, tribulations and even through suffering in life. It is in this vein that Luther begins his introduction to the Freedom of a Christian.
As a Doctor of Theology who lectured at university in Biblical studies Luther suggests that he has little faith. He encourages us on our spiritual journey that no matter how great or small we think our faith is, we all can access and experience the strength that is offered through faith in Christ. For Luther this faith lies outside of ourselves. It is not mere knowledge. Yet it does include knowledge, reason and logic. Faith in Christ is reasonable, verifiable, historical. That is really important when we encourage and nurture faith in students. For Luther and Lutheran theology faith is primarily trust. Trust in who Christ says he is and what Christ has done for us. Trust in the promises of God. Promise which is found in the Biblical story together with the demands of God. This is where we find paradox and two seemingly contradictory themes; because of God’s grace and forgiveness we have freedom yet as flesh and blood humans we are still bound up by sin. Let’s read now the opening paragraphs to “The Freedom of a Christian.”
A Reading from the “Freedom of a Christian”
Many people view Christian faith as something easy, and quite a few people even count it as if it were related to the virtues. They do this because they have not judged faith in light of any experience, nor have they ever tasted its great power.
This is because a person who has not tasted its spirit in the midst of trials and misfortune cannot possibly write well about faith or understand what has been written about it. But one who has had even a small taste of faith can never write, speak, reflect, or hear enough about it. As Christ says in John 4(:14), it is a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Although I cannot boast of my own abundance of faith and I also know quite well how short my own supply is, nevertheless—given that I have been troubled by great and various trials—I hope I can attain to at least a drop of faith. And I hope that I can talk about faith in a way that, if not more elegant, is certainly clearer than has been done in the past by the fancy writers and the subtle disputants alike, who have not even understood their own writings.
In order to point out an easier way for common folk (for I serve only them), I am proposing two themes concerning the freedom and servitude of the spirit:
A Christian is lord of all, completely free of everything.
A Christian is a servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.
Although these topics appear to contradict one another, nevertheless, if they can be found to be in agreement, they will serve our purposes beautifully. For both are from the Apostle Paul, when he says in 1 Cor. 9 (:19), “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all” and in Rom. 13 (:8), “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” But “love” by its very nature is dutiful and serves the one who is loved. The same was true of Christ who, although Lord of all, was nevertheless “born of a woman, born under the law” and who was at the same time free and slave, that is, at the same time “in the form of God” and “in the form of a slave.”
Let us approach these two themes from a rather distant and unsophisticated starting point. Every human being consists of two natures: a spiritual and a bodily one. According to the spiritual nature, which people label the soul, the human being is called a spiritual, inner, and new creature. According to the bodily nature, which people label the flesh, a human being is called the fleshly, outer, and old creature. Paul writes about this in 2 Cor. 4(:16), “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” This distinction results in the fact that in the Scripture these contrary things are said about the same person, because these two “human beings” fight against each other in the very same human being, as in Gal. 5(:17), “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit, and what the spirit desires is opposed to the flesh.” 
 Timothy Wengert Translation, Fortress Press: 2016, pp.10-11.
 Carmelo Santos, The Freedom of a Christian: A Study Guide for Martin Luther’s Treatise, Marking the 500th Anniversary of its Publication, ELCA, Chicago: 2020.
Freedom of a Christian #1
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36.
On the first day of this term I was able to lead a study for our whole staff. I decided the content for this study would be Martin Luther's treatise on The Freedom of a Christian. This year happens to be the 500th anniversary of the writing and publishing of this document. Below you can read an abridged introduction to this study as well as download the PowerPoint quiz and discussion questions I used. In subsequent weeks I will be posting followup reflections on The Freedom of a Christian as I select readings from it to use in our staff devotions. Toward the end of the term I will include the complete study of readings and questions in the Devotions part of this site. Blessings as you enjoy your freedom that serves!
The Freedom of a Christian, written by Martin Luther, is a great introduction to Lutheran theology and spirituality. In this treatise Luther makes the classic Pauline and Reformation distinction between faith and good works, that is freedom comes from the righteousness of faith apart from the law. According to God’s grace we are justified by faith alone through Christ, this is the biblical teaching that Luther rediscovered and is at the heart of the Reformation. In the Lutheran school this has many implications including the fact that the mission of a Lutheran school is to provide not only a quality education but also to be Christ centred and grace focused. This means a Lutheran school is a place of grace in all aspects of learning so that students, staff and families are exposed to and nurtured in a faith that frees us from the accusations of the law and the addiction of works righteousness.
In the ears of people today freedom is usually thought of in terms of the economic or the political. To be free is to be an autonomous individual who has a wide array of consumer goods or the right to choose their government representatives. Since the enlightenment of the eighteenth century freedom tends to be defined in terms of deliverance from oppressive structures, especially those connected with church dogma. For Luther the individual self lacked the resources that would lead to true freedom. “Rather than knowing true freedom, people are much more prone to cling to some earthly good such as wealth, status, or sex. The result can be a bondage that is deep and profound. And it is…ironic because it can happen under the guise of a supposedly autonomous self that is simply doing as it pleases.”
“The freedom Luther has in mind is deeply relational…it is found in a relationship with Christ”. Tranvik in his introduction to Luther’s work makes this analogy. In long term relationships like a good friendship or a faithful marriage there is an abundance of faith and trust along with the joys and sorrows of life. Within such relationships there is little pretension or need to prove one’s worth or value. Hours can pass without a word and yet there is no need to explain the silence. This sense of freedom cannot be purchased in the marketplace or obtained. It cannot be generated through the earnest efforts of an individual will. Rather it is a gift of the relationship itself. This is the freedom of the Christian that Luther writes of in this document.
 Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian; Luther Study Edition, translated and introduced by Mark D. Tranvik, Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2008, Introduction, 28.
 Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian; Luther Study Edition, translated and introduced by Mark D. Tranvik, Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2008, Introduction, 29.
Andrew Root has written an excellent book called "Faith Formation in a Secular Age; Responding to the Church's Obsession with Youthfulness". It was published in 2017 by Baker Books and is the first part of a three book series on ministry in a secular age. The second work is on the role of the Pastor and the third which has just been released is centered on the ministry of the Congregation. In "Faith Formation", Root critiques and builds on the work of philosopher Charles Taylor, New Testament scholar Michael Gorman and Dietrich Bonhoeffer's little known emphasis on youth ministry. Below is a link to a review of the book I wrote for the current August edition of the Lutheran Theological Journal.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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