Martin Luther

Graham Tomlin surveys Martin Luther, with a view to mining Luther’s wisdom for contemporary spiritual formation.


01. Martin Luther

Graham Tomlin introduces Martin Luther’s theology and begins to show how his experience can offer insight for today.  Martin Luther subscribed to the scholastic view that salvation was a four-stage process: initial good works, infused grace, meritorious works and internal transformation. And yet his experience told him he could never do anything to please God.  This dissonance led him to ask two questions of theology: does it offer a God he can love, and can it help him in his anguish? He returned to scripture to search for a theology that answered these questions satisfactorily. 

Tags: church history, soteriology, scholasticism, experience, theology, Luther, infused grace, good works 


02. Luther's Faith

Graham Tomlin continues his narrative of Martin Luther's life with Luther’s breakthrough and the development of his faith.  For Luther, faith is not man’s contribution to salvation, but the means by which he receives it. Luther draws a hard line between justification and works, and Dr. Tomlin explores the implications, consequences and dangers of the dichotomous relationship between justification and discipline, between faith and works.  Graham also interacts on questions regarding the origin and implications of Luther’s tests for theology, Luther’s community and influences, the Lutheran Catechism, discipleship, and first century theology.

Tags: Luther’s cloaca experience, trust, faith, justification, good works, scholasticism, medieval, grace, Luther’s theology, experience, relationship with God, worship, freedom, discipline 


03. Luther & the Cross

Graham Tomlin maps out the development of Luther’s spiritual theology from his study of the Psalms to his theology of the cross, showing how Luther’s understanding of faith developed through his own suffering.  While many of his clerical contemporaries searched for power through relics, indulgences and the papacy, Luther insisted that the only true relic God left us is suffering. The suffering of the cross, Dr. Tomlin says, is normative for the Christian life. He paraphrases Luther: “Power is exercised best by those who have experienced their own radical powerlessness.”  He also takes some time to answer questions. 

Tags: cruciformity, theology of suffering, theodicy, paradigm of the cross, spiritual theology, practical theology, reformation, transformative grace, spiritual formation, psalms, atonement, Anselm, Luther, the cross, power, relics, worship, prayer, indulgences, 95 Theses, experience


04. The Reformation

Graham Tomlin looks back at the Reformation and its influences to see how it can offer resources for the church today. The Reformation evolved in a rapidly changing world characterized by new technology, growing cities, spiritual interest, a disconnected church and doctrinal confusion. Dr. Tomlin looks at the Reformers' responses through Luther’s priesthood of all believers, Calvin’s view of the church as the society of Christ, and Bucer’s idea that the Kingdom of Christ becomes visible in the community of the church.  He concludes that the goal of evangelism is not simply saving souls, but perfecting people.  

Tags: missiology, mission, evangelism, ecclesiology, discipleship, spiritual formation, Luther, Reformation, Reformers, eschatology, John Calvin, technology, spiritual interest, self-critical, reflective theology, pragmatics, church, priesthood of all believers, church polity, visible Kingdom, spiritual health, discipline


05. Luther & Scripture

Graham Tomlin continues his fascinating look at Martin Luther's life and theology with a brief summary of the medieval view of the church’s authority and the developments of Renaissance humanism. He examines factors that led Luther to develop his doctrine of sola scriptura and goes on to explore the biographical, personal, theological and ecclesiastical reasons behind Luther’s reformation. He points to Christ, not scripture, as the center of Luther’s theology and describes why Luther believed the church needed to be held in check by scripture.  Dr. Tomlin closes the session with Luther’s threefold hermeneutic – prayer, meditation, and temptation.

Tags: ecclesiology, discipleship, spiritual formation, hermeneutics, reformation, papal authority, church authority, church abuse, power, medieval, tradition, Luther, technology, indulgences, priesthood of all believers, laity, sola scriptura, scriptural authority, scripture, exegesis, Christ in Luther’s Theology, culture, cultural authority, ecclesiology, church polity, suffering, gospel, education


06. Q&A: Scripture

Graham Tomlin interacts with the following questions: Did anyone debate Luther on purely scriptural grounds? How do we guard biblical interpretation from entirely degenerating into private judgment?  How did Luther get his authority?  What is the relationship between robust dialogue and sola scriptura?  Is the meaning of scripture every unmediated?  How do we guard against fragmentation in our theology, while maintaining a healthy amount of diversity? 

Tags: church history, historical theology, hermeneutics, hermeneutical spiral, proper authority, church unity


07. Q&A: Luther

Graham Tomlin takes more questions from the audience.  Does Luther contradict himself in regards to the role of personal experience in shaping our theology?  Did Catholicism change in response to Luther and what is the modern Catholic church’s view of Luther?  If we can’t take the Bible completely literally than how do we preserve the mysterious power of God in scripture?  How was the canon formed?  How in touch were the Reformers with the life of common people?

Tags: church history, historical theology, reason and experience, canon history


08. Luther & Creation

Graham Tomlin begins this session by interacting on questions of power and weakness. Then he introduces Luther’s view of creation by contrasting two of Luther’s predecessors: Irenaeus and Augustine. Luther initially shared Augustine's ascetic tendencies, but then has cause to rethink the contemporary negative view of creation and comes to the conclusion that creation is good. Dr. Tomlin explores what Francis Schaeffer called evangelical Platonism and suggests that creation be neither worshipped nor despised, but recognized as both fallen and good.

Tags: early church, Luther, creation, asceticism, dualism, Gnosticism, Platonism, body, re-creation, redemption, imago Dei, second Adam, reformers, sacraments, incarnation, now but not yet, already but not yet, time between the times, eschatology


09. Tradition

Graham Tomlin explores the relationship between scripture, reason and tradition, with emphasis on tradition.  He traces two competing versions of this relationship through church history, bringing them to a head at the Reformation.  Enter reason and the Enlightenment and the subsequent denigration of both scripture and tradition.  Graham draws from Alisdair MacIntyre, Leslie Newbigin, St. Anselm, St. Augustine, Irenaeus and others to come to the conclusion that scripture is revelation, tradition is the transmission of that revelation and reason is continued reflection on revelation.

Tags: church history, educational resources, Augustine, Reformers, Tradition, Irenaeus, Hermeneutics, Exegesis, authority, power, scripture, reason, dogma, enlightenment, medieval, rationalism, philosophy, modernity, modernism, postmodernity, postmodernism, faith, understanding, deference construct, Wesleyan quadrangle, evangelism, discipleship, community, dependence, evangelicalism


10. Q&A: Heritage

Graham Tomlin interacts with participants on various questions regarding the implications of his previous session on the relationship between tradition and scripture.

Tags: sanctification, giving, heresy, Eastern Orthodox theology, experience as authority, ecumenical dialogue, ecumenical unity, church unity, tradition as authority