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What Luther Says

9/11 Through Martin Luther's Eyes: 'Some General Directives'

Today marks 13 years since that dreadful morning on September 11th, 2001.

We all know exactly what we were doing and precisely where we were when our world changed forever as though it happened only yesterday.

As with most things related to any kind of retrospective on 9/11, including how our lives are still affected by the events of that sunny September morning even to this very day (as evidenced by last night's speech by the President of the United States), we're constantly fed the political perspective and perhaps rarely ever stop to consider the spiritual perspective.

As Christians, we know the reality of the situation though.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Behind earthly opponents stand demonic forces.

In the modern world, the spiritual dimension if often overlooked or ignored completely.

We view our problems -- and try to solve them -- in purely human terms too.

Take war, for instance. Is war ever justified? What is the proper Biblical view of war and those who take part in it? Can you be a soldier fighting in a war and still be a Christian?

I know that those are questions that have been asked and debated long before I was here and they are questions that will continue to be asked and debated long after I publish this piece too.

Still, I've always found it so strange that there is so much heated disagreement about this subject when God's Word seems pretty clear on the matter.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The Byrds
were right to remind us of God's Word, which says there's a time for everything...yes, even war.

With that in mind, and in remembrance of 9/11, today I'd like to share with you 13 different things (1 for each year since September 11th, 2001) that Martin Luther wrote about war from a Christian perspective and for the Christian.

Luther had a a remarkable ability to write profound truths (derived from holy Scripture, of course) so simply that anyone could understand what he was saying. I hope today's series of statements from him will provide comfort to your conscience.

In What Luther Says compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Plass writes...

IN LUTHER'S DAY there were those who questioned the right of waging war of any kind. In 1526 the Reformer ventilated this question in his little writing entitled Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved.

So, we see the same battle being waged within Christendom and the conscience back then as we do today. That should, hopefully, bring us some measure of comfort as we continue (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

IN HIS WRITING of 1523 on the limitations of secular authority the Reformer states some general principles concerning the conduct of war. 
You ask: But is a prince not to go to war, or are his subjects not to follow him into battle? I answer: This is a far-searching question, but let me answer it very briefly. I say: To act the part of a Christian in this matter, a prince should not wage war against his overlord -- the king, emperor, or other liege -- but should let him who takes take. For one is not to resist the government with force but only with knowledge of the truth. If the government pays attention to it, good; if not, you are innocent and suffer wrong for God's sake. But if your opponent is your equal, your inferior, or of a foreign government, you should first offer him justice and peace, as Moses taught the Children of Israel. If he is unwilling, then use your best strategy and defend yourself by force against force, as Moses well describes it all in Deuteronomy 20. In doing this you must not consider your own interests and how you may remain lord; but, that all these things may be done in love, you must consider the interests of your subjects, to whom you owe help and protection. For since your entire country is in danger, you must try to see whether, with the help of God, you may save something. And if you cannot prevent some from becoming widows and orphans because of the war, you must nevertheless prevent all from going to ruin and your country from having nothing left but widows and orphans. In this matter subjects are in duty bound to follow and stake life and property on the cause. For in such a case one must risk one's property and oneself for the sake of the other. Moreover, in such a war it is a Christian act and a work of love boldly to kill, rob, and burn out the enemies and to do everything that can injure them, until one has conquered them according to the customs of war. Only one must beware of sin, must not violate wives and virgins, and when victory has been won over the enemies, one must offer mercy and peace to those who surrender and humble themselves. Wage war in such a way as to realize in this instance the truth of the saying: God helps the bravest. This is what Abraham did when he smote the four kings, as Genesis 14 tells us. He certainly caused great slaughter and showed little mercy until he conquered them. An occurrence such as this must be considered as sent by God in order now and then to cleanse the land and drive out the knaves. But what if a prince is in the wrong? Are his people bound to follow him then too? I answer: No, for it is no one's duty to do wrong. On the contrary, we should obey God, who desires the right, rather than man (Acts 4:29). But what if the subjects do not know whether the prince is in the right? I answer: Since they cannot know or find out by any possible effort, they may obey without danger to their souls. For in such a case one must apply the law of Moses. He writes in Exodus 21 that a murderer who has unknowingly and involuntarily killed a man shall be delivered by fleeing to a city of refuge and by the judgment of the congregation. For whichever side is defeated, whether it be in the right or in the wrong, must accept its defeat as a punishment from God. But whichever side wars and wins in such ignorance must consider its battle as though one fell from the roof and killed another and must then leave the matter to God. For it is all the same to God whether He deprives you of goods and life by a just lord or by an unjust one. You are His creatures, and He may do with you as He pleases -- if only your conscience is clear. Thus in Genesis 20 God Himself excuses Abimelech, when he took Abraham's wife, not because he had done right but because he had not known that she was Abraham's wife.

Controversial? Politically incorrect? Irrelevant? What do you think?

I know that in our post-modern age our knee-jerk reaction is to respond to any talk of a so-called "just war" with protest and scorn.

However, I encourage you to continue reading through this series of quotes today instead of just taking one or two of them in a vacuum, because they will have an order to them as Luther makes his case Biblically.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, hatred and death are found everywhere, and war does not last forever, nor does peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8). True peace is found only in the Lord, our Prince of Peace and Savior, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6) who overcame sin and death for us, for you (Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 2:17).

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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