World Wide Wolfmueller

Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity

Luther on Wisdom

The Old Flamme put together three classes on wisdom. The first was from the Scriptures, the second from the ancient church fathers, and the third, last night’s class, from Luther.

There were some quotations worth sharing.

First, from Luther introduction to the books of Solomon (1545), Luther defines foolishness as stepping over the bounds of your vocation. Wisdom, on the other hand, is doing your duty.

Even if there were nothing evil in the other and higher stations, no greed, pride, hatred, envy, etc., nevertheless this one vice would be bad enough, namely, that they try to be shrewd and smart when they ought not to be; everybody is inclined to do something else than what is committed to him, and to leave undone that which is committed to him. For example, whoever is in the spiritual office tries to be wise and active in the worldly office, and there is no end to his wisdom in this regard; in turn, whoever is in the worldly office has a head too small to hold all his superfluous knowledge about the conduct of the spiritual office.

Of such fools all lands, all cities, all homes are full, and in this book they are diligently rebuked. Everyone is exhorted to take care of his own affairs and to do faithfully and diligently that which is committed to him; there is indeed no virtue beyond that of obedience, attending to that which is given him to do. Such people are called wise men; the disobedient are called fools, even though they do not want to be, or be called, disobedient men or fools. (LW 35.259–260)

Consider this phrase of Luther’s, his encapsulation of virtue:

…there is indeed no virtue beyond that of obedience…

And contrast it with this quotation from Aristotle (be warned, the Flamme is sure this is taken out of context(:

“The wise man must not be ordered but must order, and he must not obey another, but the less wise must obey him.” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982a15, W. Ross, trans., The Basic Works of Aristotle (2001), p. 691, wikiquotes)

Anyhow, Luther sees wisdom and the Ten Commandments bound up together.

Earlier, in his 1424 introduction to Proverbs, Luther contrasted the world’s understanding of a “fool” with the Bibles teaching of foolishness. This is nice:

It is the way of King David in the Psalter, and especially of King Solomon—it may have been the nature of the language at that time—to give the name of fool not to those whom the world calls fools, or who are born fools, but to all kinds of loose, frivolous, heedless people, and most of all to those who live without God’s word, acting and speaking according to their own reason and purpose—though usually, in the eyes of the world, such people are considered the greatest, wisest, mightiest, richest, and holiest. For example, in the gospel Paul calls the Galatians, and Christ the Pharisees, and even his own disciples, fools. Therefore you may know that when Solomon speaks of fools, he is speaking not of plain or insignificant people, but precisely of the very best people in the world. (LW 35.261).

What, then, is God definition of a fool? of wisdom?

In turn Solomon calls folly all that which proceeds without God’s word and works. A wise man, then, is one who guides himself by God’s word and works; a fool is one who presumptuously guides himself by his own mind and notions. (LW 35.262)

May God grant us wisdom, that we would be constantly occupied with His Word.


1 Comment

  1. Michael Biolchini

    July 20, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    2 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
    3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
    4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
    5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
    7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
    8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
    9 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
    10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
    13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
    14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
    15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
    16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
    17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
    18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
    19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.
    Psalm 51 [ ESV ]

    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
    1 John 1:7 [ ESV ]

    In prayer with thanksgiving and in contrition.

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