Friday, September 7, 2007

The Self as Idol

Now 34 years old, [Luther] was not a young hothead. For seven years he had lived in anguish, often in despair, about the state of his soul. He had fought the urgings of the flesh — not only desire but also hatred and envy — and he had always lost the battle. How could he hope to be saved? Then one day, when a brother monk was reciting the Creed, the words I believe in the forgiveness of sins struck him as a revelation. I felt as if I were born anew. Faith had suddenly descended into him without his doing anything to deserve it. His divided self or sick soul, as William James called the typical state, as mysteriously healed. The mystery was God’s bestowal of grace. Lacking it, the sinner cannot have faith and walk in the path of salvation. Such is the substance not merely of the Protestant idea, but of the Protestant experience.
— Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, p. 6.

The egoism of Luther did not bode well for the next 500 years of salvation history. True, the Church was decadent, but why did he worry about his soul and not God’s will? Why was not he content to lose his self and gain you? Why did he want to be healed so that he need not the physician?