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Martin Luther would have ruled Twitter The culture war debates playing out on social media have a precedent in the Reformation

'Luther at the Diet of Worms'. Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

'Luther at the Diet of Worms'. Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images


January 25, 2021   5 mins

“Would that he worked to curb this restless, uneasy temperament which is apt to boil over in every direction.” So wrote John Calvin — no mean polemicist himself — about Martin Luther. The comment did not derive from personal experience. The two great leaders of the Protestant Reformation never got to meet, and even the single letter that Calvin wrote to Luther failed to reach its addressee. This, however, hardly mattered. There was no need for a reformer in 16th century Christendom to have talked with Luther to be familiar with his temperament. The imprint of his personality was stamped on almost everything he wrote and said. And what Luther wrote and said had become, by the time Calvin came of age, very big news indeed.

To describe the Reformation as a Twitter spat that got out of hand would obviously be anachronistic. Nevertheless, it is not entirely so: for it hints at a quality of Luther’s genius that we, in the age of social media, are perhaps peculiarly qualified to appreciate.

When, in 1517, the previously obscure professor of theology at Wittenberg published 95 theses challenging Church doctrine on salvation, they promptly went viral. “A mere squabble of envious monks.” So the Pope, with the lordly tone of a politician in 2010 turning his nose up at Twitter, is said to have dismissed the imbroglio.

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Pretty soon, however, the flame war had got out of hand. Luther turned out to have a genius for publicity beyond anything that Europe had witnessed before. A mere four years after he had posted his 95 theses, his name had come to sound across Germany, and far beyond. Even the emperor, Charles V, had found himself perturbed by it. When, 500 years ago this month, a great assembly of the empire’s power-brokers, a “diet”, was convened in the city of Worms, Luther was on its agenda.

On 26 March, a summons duly arrived in Wittenberg. Luther was instructed “to answer with regard to your books and teachings”. He was given three weeks to comply. He also received a personal assurance from the emperor of safe conduct to the diet. This, however, was not entirely reassuring, for history suggested that the word of an emperor could not always be trusted. Nevertheless, Luther answered the summons. He set off from Saxony for Worms. The journey proved a triumph. Welcoming committees toasted him at the gates of city after city; crowds crammed into churches to hear him preach. As he entered Worms, thousands thronged the streets to catch a glimpse of him. Luther was the man of the hour.

How had he done it? “Luther spoke,” as Diarmaid MacCulloch has put it, “at many levels: he debated with scholars, shouted from the pulpit, wrote vigorous German and sang his message in German hymns and songs.” He was — to coin a metaphor — a digital theologian faced by ponderously analogue foes. The technology he exploited was, of course, the printing press. No one had recognised its potential as readily as Luther, nor leveraged it to such seismic effect. The impact of his 95 theses had been crucially dependent on his determination to have them broadcast as widely as possible. He carried on as he had begun.

Staggeringly, over the course of the decade that followed the Diet of Worms, more than a fifth of the pamphlets printed by German presses came from Luther’s pen. These treatises and broadsides were then further amplified by memes. Luther himself was portrayed as a prophet, a hero, a saint. His enemies were shown as animals, or demons, or excrement. Nothing on the scale of this trolling had ever been witnessed before. Luther’s admirers were putting images to use in a way that was destined to have a long and enduring history. They had, in the words of Carlos Eire, “invented the satirical cartoon”.

Luther, by coming to the Diet of Worms, by sticking his head in the lion’s jaws, by daring the emperor to do his worst, had demonstrated in the most dramatic manner possible everything that had made him so effective a rebel against the established order: his daring, his popularity, his refusal to bow and cringe before his foes. Yet all these qualities would have been for nothing had they been in the service merely of his own ego. Certainly, Luther believed himself to be loved by God — but not because he merited such love. As a monk, he had lived in dread of divine judgement, starving himself and praying every night, confessing his sins for long hours at a time, wearying his superiors, all in a despairing attempt to render himself deserving of heaven.

Yet the more he had studied the Bible, and reflected on its mysteries, the more he had come to see this as wasted effort. God did not treat sinners according to their just deserts — for, were He to do so, none would ever be saved. Only by means of His grace might salvation be obtained. This was the conviction that Luther brought with him to Worms. Unworthy though he was, helpless and fit to be condemned, yet God still loved him.

Luther, afire with the intoxicating and joyous improbability of this, loved God in turn. There was no other source of peace, no other source of comfort, to be had. This was the conviction that Luther, a heretic excommunicated by the pope, a rebel summoned by the emperor, was prepared to die for rather than retract. “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”

Twice Luther appeared before Charles V; and twice, challenged to renounce his writings, he declared that he would not. To the emperor such defiance appeared bewildering. “A lone friar whose opinions contradict the past thousand years of the Christian religion must surely be wrong.” Two days after listening to Luther’s second bravura display in the crowded hall at Worms, Charles V wrote his reply. Obedient to the example of his forebears, he vowed, he would always be a defender of the Catholic faith: “the sacred rituals, decrees, ordinances, and holy customs.”

He therefore had no hesitation in confirming Luther’s excommunication. Nevertheless, he proved himself a man of his word. He permitted the “lone friar” to depart. Luther, leaving Worms, did so as both a hero and an outlaw. A survivor too. Abducted by his patron, the ruler of Saxony, and granted sanctuary in a castle, he devoted himself to moaning about his bowels, growing a beard, and translating the New Testament into German. By the time he finally felt safe enough to return Wittenberg, a year after the Diet of Worms, he had abandoned for ever the disciplines of his life as a monk. “Here I stand,” as he was reported to have told Charles V at Worms. “I can do no other.”

Was this arrogance, as the emperor had claimed, or was it the certitude of a sinner resolved, no matter what, to share the good news of God’s grace? Doubtless, it was both. The “restless, uneasy temperament” that so perturbed Calvin was the same temperament that enabled Luther, over the course of his eventful and fractious life, to upend Christendom.

500 years on from his defiance of emperor and pope at the Council of Worms, the episode has resonances for us that it would not have possessed even 20 years ago. Luther, over the course of his career, displayed a breathtaking command of all the qualities required to flourish on social media: a genius for aphorism, for invective, for denouncing fake news, for spreading fake news, even for publicly doting on pets. (“Oh, that I could only pray,” he once exclaimed, “in the way that my puppy stares at meat!”)

Yet few of us today in the West, when we use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, are called to draw upon the most stirring of all Luther’s qualities: his readiness to risk death in the cause of holding true to his conscience. The anniversary of the great drama at Worms should serve to remind us of our own good fortune — and of those many today who, not sharing in it, have no choice, when making a stand, but to emulate Luther’s courage.


Tom Holland is a writer, popular historian and cricketer. He is not an actor. His most recent book is PAX

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Malcolm Beaton
Malcolm Beaton
3 years ago

Tom-one may not suffer physical death any more in Western Democracies but “death” still occurs
Being cancelled,Twitter stormed and being the wrong side of the current health and safety pc brigade candidate be “death ” in all senses of the word
Roger Scruton,JordanPeterson etc come to mind
Get out you copy of the Crucible-Arthur Miller had it right-Proctor paraphrased-“kill me but not my reputation “
Many of these contrarians still risk “death” in all but name
Have you not noticed?
xxd09

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Beaton

SPOT ON. Thankyou!

Fabian Destouches
Fabian Destouches
3 years ago

Luther would have been banned on Twitter. If Twitter was around back then the Catholic Church would have been powerful enough to ban people like him, if Luther was around today they would ban him for his antisemitic tweets.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Or for simply not being with the Big Money cum LeftWing alliance and ‘Common Purpose’ world-order view.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
3 years ago

Interesting point. People who eulogize Luther completely forget that he was a ferocious anti-Semite even by the standards of his day.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

I agree; as a Jewish Christian, I agree with his theology but find it hard to get past his anti-semitism. It seems so unintelligent in the face of his beliefs.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

“Welcoming committees toasted him at the gates of city after city; crowds crammed into churches to hear him preach”.
Historians don’t generally understand that a major reason for Luther’s success was that his message of being made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ, based on Romans 5.1-11 met with joyful response in people. The Reformation was, amongst other things, a far reaching spiritual revival in which thousands of people who were starved of the good news of God’s Love heard for the first time. People now knew they could they could stand before God forgiven and reconciled to Him because Jesus, God’Son had died for their sins.

Jonathan Barker
Jonathan Barker
3 years ago

Meanwhile because the human world is now in a state of almost infinite fragmentation which are amplified by social media – twits now rule to here.

It is now time for a worldwide reformation of human culture. But this reformation needs to be universal, and of course not in any sense Christian. It needs to include all of humankind and every aspect of human culture. It needs to include all aspects and all traditions of religion, all the sciences, the communications media, economics, and politics
It needs to extend the cultural and scientific of Man to acknowledge and also to surrender to what is beyond and more primary than Man, and beyond and more primary than the Earth. This new cultural gesture needs to base itself on full recognition of the more radical and modern discoveries in science and cosmology, such as those proposed by Einstein and his theories of “relativity. And it needs to base itself on full recognition of the more radical and modern Realizations in the area of Esoteric Spiritual Religion.
Therefore, this new cultural reformation needs to step beyond the old and childish religious mentality wherein Man is surrounded by the Parental Deity, and the parental universe. It also needs to pass beyond the adolescent conceptual rigidity of scientific materialism, and the spirit-killing dogmas of left brained thinking so that mankind may not also acknowledge the Paradoxical Condition of Nature, but also participate and surrender within the Paradox. Only in that case may we continue to evolve as Man (as a species), and ultimately transcend both Man and the Earth.

All of this means that we must now begin to escape beyond the conventional Man-versus-Object mentality in science and conventional exoteric institutional religiosity. We must realize and presume God to be greater that an Object to us – greater than the Sun or the Creative Other. And we must see the Earth and Sun and our local local Universe within an Infinite Paradox of space-time, which arises, and floats, and changes, and passes away within the Paradox of the Living Radiance that is the true Divine Condition, the unknowable Mystery or Condition in which all present conditions are spontaneously arises.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

All of this is impractical – and unworthy.
The paradox which makes Abraham and Plato THE great philosophers of the ancient world and which should turn all of us to Christian belief is that, surrounded by and imbrued in a Nature ‘red in tooth and claw’, ferally cruel, ruthlessly selfish, nearly every one of us intuits Goodness as existent with its own independent reality.
Materialistic explanations do not work. One cannot get seamlessly from ‘I/you/we would be well advised to do this or that’ to ‘This is right’ or ‘That is wrong’. We have Conscience, which – again – cannot be mechanistically explained.
Plato intuited that, though the universe is in large measure cruel and bad, God is good.
Abraham intuited that we can be in a personal relation with Him which is the most intimate relation we can have; and so he ceased to be any other Old Mesopotamian Syrian and became the father of the Jewish people, and of all who are saved from badness to live in goodness.
Anything else is mystical twaddle begotten of the desire NOT to face THE challenge of existence and become entirely good – which, once anybody HAS a sense of right and wrong, is just what he or she ought to want to be.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Thank you Peter

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

How can you equate Abraham with Plato when the former didn’t exist?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

what is your evidence?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

If I may quote from Peter Leithart’s, ‘The Abraham Myth (2015) :
The historical evidence is overwhelming and need not be rehearsed here. It is sufficient to point the curious reader to Hans Georg Unglauber’s definitive study, popularly known as ‘Die Suche nach dem historischen Abraham’ but originally published as Abraham: Historie oder Pferd-Geschichte? Unglauber shows that there is not a shred of independent evidence for the existence of Abraham, much less for any of the events recorded in Genesis”.

Alastair Herd
Alastair Herd
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

You are aware the Leithart’s piece is satrical and that Hans Georg Unglauber doesn’t actually exist….

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Alastair Herd

No, bowled middle stump! Thank you.
Perhaps I should translated Unglauber correctly. The Rev Leithart is to be applauded.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Persons and most things occurring in the Bronze Age (circa 3000-1200 BC) and its successor, the Iron Age, would almost by definition leave hardly any memorials behind. Time’s attrition would have eaten them up.

The exception to this rule would be the few cultures where people set out to make lasting monuments; e.g. Ancient Egypt; and there we find that, while the Ten Plagues are not recorded* (at least, so far as archaeology has discovered hitherto), the pharoah who succeeded the king in whose reign those plagues took place was that king’s SECOND son, not his eldest boy.

What happened to the Firstborn, the heir apparent? [!]

That few Egyptians would want to record it seems very likely. The plagues were a giant national humiliation and the complete discrediting of their ethics in that period.

If the Lord God sent us a prophet now who declared ‘Owing to the contemptible, utterly destructive alliance between Big Money and the Far Left and all the harm it has done and proposes to do, I shall smite everyone in government and high influence throughout the Occident with horrible boils for which there is no cure until they repent and bring back reasonable rule,’ – and that calamity happened; do you think the Bidens and Harrises and Clintons and CNNs and Tech Overlords &c &c &c, would all be carefully inscribing this portion of their history on tablets of stone for the information of posterity?

We see a similar mysterious gap in the record of the town of Hamelin.

A monk inscribed (in the Lueneberg manuscript c. 1440) in old German ‘In the year 1284 on the day of Saints John and Paul 26 June, 130 children born in Hamelin were misled by a piper clothed in many colours to Calvary and lost at the Koppen [local hill]’.

There are various of ways of interpreting this – I do not assert that the Pied Piper story happened as recounted in Robert Browning’s famous poem; but it strikes me as reasonable that while there was indeed a stained glass window in Hamelin church to their memory (until that building’s destruction by fire in 1660) yet not so very much else by way of local record has ever been discovered.

After all, if the piper did actually exist and transport the youngsters into another world, their disappearance into the hillside which opened to receive them, would appear a death by torture to the horrified local townsfolk looking on; and it was a striking condemnation of those burghers’ morality.

For lack of any grave(s), so many parents would want to memorialize their offspring in SOME way, but there would be no big enthusiasm for telling the world that an angel had visited their shabby ethics as a community with a tough judgement.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Thank you for that fulsome. response.
This is a question of Faith versus Reason or as GK Chesterton put it “Faith is belief in the unbelievable”.

Without wishing to be facetious I could ask what was the incidence infant mortality in Pharaonic Egypt?

As to Hamelin and the “River Weser deep and wide” I cannot in all seriousness comment, although is the Lueneberg Manuscript such a reliable source? Wasn’t it taken from a inscription rather than the hand of a Monk anyway?

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

There was a church in Hamelin built in 1300 which, according to fairly early accounts had a stained glass window recording the events. This church burned down in 1660 but another church in Goslar has another such window made in 1592 which copies the original one in Hamelin.

Deacon Lude of Hamelin was reported in 1384 to have in his possession a chorus book with a Latin verse in it describing the events.

There are all sorts of explanations of what was alleged in the full-dress folktale version of the happening.

It may have been a roundabout way of mentioning a visitation of plague; or commemorated (rather shamefacedly) some period of dire poverty in the town during which the adults sold their children to prosperous citizens elsewhere (in order to provide for their not being starved to death). That sort of thing sometimes occurred in the Middle Ages.

It may have been a case of mass psychogenic illness which took the form of a dancing mania. These outbreaks occurred in the 13th century, including one in 1237 where a large group of children travelled 20 kms from Erfurt to Arnstadt dancing and jumping all the way.

My small point here only is that IF, by chance, what actually took place corresponds pretty much to what the likes of Robert Browning (or modern folktale compendia) have narrated – but Browning gets the date wrong – then one would expect there to be a very modest commemoration of the events by a humiliated Hamelin’s grown-ups, and a remarkable paucity of other records of an occurrence so extremely unusual.

Which is what we happen to find.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

If there is no evidence that he existed, there is no evidence he did not exist either.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

“Fiddle faddle” as you would say.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Regrettable.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Certainly, if there is not a shred of evidence, then Abraham is as likely to have existed as not. However, I would not degrade him to the ranks of philosophers without some evidence.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Does it matter, really? Abraham or “Abraham,” the real character or the author of the fictional one… either way, what needs to be assessed for “worthiness to be compared to Plato” (because by “Plato” you surely mean “Plato’s thought”) is the philosophy/theology, not the person expressing it.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Does this not imply that God, like man his creation, is an inhabitant of the Universe rather than its creator?

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

He is both; as, to use an imperfect analogy, William Shakespeare could have written a play featuring, among the rest of the cast, the part of one William Shakespeare.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Your analogy actually provides a perfect example of how an analogy can mislead through tidy over-simplification.

For God to have installed himself as a character in the grand cosmic drama after having created the cosmos itself he must become a very, very reduced version of the being which created the Universe. As a character he would need to forget that act of creation and forget his omnipotence. Otherwise the fight against evil would be no more than a sham.

Thus we must believe that the God of religion has become separate from the creator of the Universe (he is both, you say in a neat fix). As a dramatic entity (to coin a phrase) he exists within the Universe an inhabitant ““ but then so do we.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Any being with conscience and free will can volunteer for martyrdom in a good cause.

For instance, I learned from our coalman long ago (a Dutchman who had come to settle in England) that one man he knew in the Resistance during WWII was stripped naked by the Gestapo and left in a cell, for interrogation the next morning; by torture.

They took away his clothes and possessions so that he could not cheat them by committing suicide overnight.

He knew torture awaited him and that he was not strong enough to withstand the pain. He was most concerned not to betray his colleagues in the Resistance.

Fortunately the secret police had overlooked the spectacles he always wore. He punched out the glass in them, opened veins and died. He was a doctor.

The torturers found only a dead body to interrogate the morrow morn.

God, come to us in our bone and flesh*, had the option of being, yes, all-powerful, but not using His power. Thus, on His arrest by the theocrats’ police, when one of his disciples cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest, Jesus healed it forthwith, while nevertheless agreeing to be led away for interrogation.

In the ultra-grim hours of his Passion followed by his Crucifixion, God the Father removed from Him, God the Son, the sense of divine support. This is what happens to good Christians when they are sorely tried by temptation. Jesus endured every kind of inanition.

Hence the agony in Gethsemane and the moment on the Cross when He feels utterly abandoned (by God’s love).

* (He always was of human aspect in form; we are made in his image – a fact which we tend to resent and mock, because it means that to be fully ourselves, to be entirely realized as beings in all our potential, we have to ascend into the divine life. – A call, a bankers’ draft on us, which implies a huge increase in wisdom and virtue; and that we really must pull ourselves together and GROW UP. No sane parent wants his or her child to be in adult life a stunted hobgoblin.

It is easier to jeer at all this and talk about God being made in Man’s image; but, assuming that the core Jewish scriptures are truthful, we read [in the book of Exodus, chapter 24, verses 9-10] ‘Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness’.

I.e. (I take it) they beheld the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, long before his Incarnation.

If God be utterly other than us or any other mammal or visible being, animal, vegetable or mineral, why would He have ‘feet’?)

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

A fine impassioned piece of writing ““ something of a sermon in fact.

However, you have skirted around the questions of omniscience and omnipotence which I originally raised. Only if the God of the Bible inhabits a Universe not fully of his making does his battle of good against evil make sense.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

The God of the Bible is not battling evil in a Universe not fully of his making.

He is offering to human beings, and to some of the higher animals, the chance to battle evil with His support; without which they would infallibly lose the battle and become/remain stunted creatures.

For that support to be effectual, entirely creative, it must not be interference by a Divine Hand pressed on the scales of the oppugnancy, simply achieving the outcome of itself.

You can see this with any good parent. They don’t make every decision for their children. They hope and anxiously pray for the youngsters to make good decisions of themselves, while doing what they can legimately do by way of helping them to have the good characters which will make the good decisions.

To be valuable, creation has to be part of a collaborative endeavour, in which the individual human being who wants to become good appeals to the captain of his hopes for help in fighting the evil in himself.

God is looking to help humankind Grow Up into their full potential as beings fully human because at last divine, and fully divine because at last fully human.

For believers this means a life here of stress, self-denial, discipline, thought, action, prayer – and from time to time great accessions of joy. Also, OVER time, a continuous essential improvement in character.

Like any first-class manager in a craftsman’s workshop, the Boss has done it all in person. He is not requiring of us, His apprentices, something He has not undergone at first hand, and in spades, Himself.

The notion of God as a sort of omnipotent sultan, as if he were relaxing on an ottoman, way above His creation all the time, handing out orders and meanwhile luxuriating on sherbet drinks and gorgeous paradisaical fruits, is the exact opposite of the Christian God’s nature and activity.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

You seem to think you know the mind of God but I repeat, you have skirted around the questions of omniscience and omnipotence. Are you able to address those questions instead of sermonising?

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

God has created a universe but not one in which every single entity is entirely programmed, completely automated to behave in whatever way He wants it to.

He has made a creation vastly more significant, valuable, interesting than that: a universe in which some beings – angels, humans, higher animals – have free will.

This is to say, they can choose to be good or they choose the alternative and be non-good.

The value of this is that they can enter into meaningful relations with each other, and with Him. If you don’t and can’t choose to marry X or Y – you just come together perforce like raindrops on a window-pane – there is no individuality in the character of your commitment to each other.

Because He loves his Creation, delinquent though parts of it have chosen to be, He has intervened to make the choice of Goodness more accessible to human beings than the pass which it has come to would have afforded those among them who want to be good but keep finding temptation too strong for them.

I fail to see why you think omniscience and omnipotence could not choose to give its thinking creations free will; and abide by that choice, live out (indeed, at drastic cost to Himself) the painful but worthwhile logic of it.

In doing so, God has separated Himself into more than one Being. There is God the Father, presiding over all (but I sometimes wonder if we ignore how much the very act of creation may have cost Him).

There is God the Son, begotten of the Father before all worlds, and Whom – species-wise – we humans resemble.

The Son, entering our world clothed in our flesh and bones – no longer transcendently celestial – participates in our weakness, our experience of temptation; but in resisting all calls (inward and outward) to wrongdoing and in being put to death by torture, after a judicial travesty, has turned the power of Sin inside out; so that, henceforth, anyone of us joining with Him is over time enabled to resist the siren calls of wrongful behaviour no less.

This has been excruciatingly painful for the omniscient and omnipotent Being I believe in, but I don’t see why you consider it impossible.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Again this overarching assumption that you know the mind of God:
“… excruciatingly painful for the omniscient and omnipotent Being I believe in…”(?)
Appealing to sentiment by claiming you know of God’s suffering rather undermines your case. I think I will have to get used to the fact that every answer you give will be a lengthy, emotional yet evasive sermon.

You seem unable to understand the full significance of omniscience and omnipotence. By describing the structure of the holy trinity and saying that God granted his creations free will you do not answer the questions you just push them further away. But of course an omnipotent being can create and do anything ““ problem solved! Unfortunately, in such a case there could be no genuine struggle between light and dark, good and evil.

For example: your alleged suffering God would need to be separate from suffering ““ otherwise he would be both sufferer and suffering itself.

Which brings me back to my original point ““ the God of the bible must be an inhabitant of the Universe ““ a creation by the creator dwelling in the creator’s Universe.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

The genuine struggle between good and evil which I perceive is the struggle within each human being.God Himself does not in His transcendent divinity need to struggle with that. Satan and the other rebel angels were promptly evicted from Heaven early on in the creation’s history, and the War in Heaven was between the rebel and the loyal angels. God was above it.So this Zoroastrian notion of a god who is embattled with evil in the universe as one of two pretty evenly matched pugilists might be in a boxing match is entirely foreign to Christian theology.Where God fights evil is as a helpmeet in our struggle with the evil we are assailed by owing to our fallen nature.If as a species we had never sinned, if from the beginning we had been entirely loving and sane, self-forgetful and good and had resisted temptation when it offered, then there would be no battle.BECAUSE we have fallen from Grace into depravity, we need to be rescued. We cannot do that rescue all in our own strength; we have too little strength to resist temptation in our own wisdom and competence.What is crucial is the core decisions made by our will (what the Lord calls ‘the heart’).God has nothing to fear from Satan and can dismiss Him out of hand. He has, all the same, intervened in His creation to make it possible for such human beings as actually want to leave sin behind and become completely good so to do.He intervenes when we pray to Him (consciously or unconsciously) and let Him take us over as a going concern; as a businessman might take over a failing enterprise, turn it round and make it succeed.In such cases, He arranges for us a life-trajectory in which we are purged of our faults, lifted up spiritually, and become new celestial creatures in Him. (I concede sorrowfully that you see very little of this in the world of Christian believers today; but what I have described is the genuine Gospel-programme.)We seem to be at odds about the Battle with Evil.I can only repeat (in so far as I understand your point): this battle is not between God and Evil fighting it out for sovereignty in a contest with a very doubtful issue.It is between us and the wrong in us or which appeals only too much to us; and we need God’s help to win in that struggle; but He allows us to struggle in the first place because that is the only way we can grow up into full spiritual maturity (ask any parent about raising a child).If these observations mean nothing to you, I think I need you to explain in much more detail what kind of war between Good and Evil you envisage in the universe.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

You presume an awul lot.
I’m afraid in telling us God’s thoughts and plans you risk turning him into your puppet.
“…in His transcendent divinity need to struggle…”
“He arranges for us a life trajectory…”
“Satan and the other rebel angels were promptly evicted from Heaven …|”
[Really? Are you quite sure they even existed?]

“…God fights evil is as a helpmeet in our struggle with the evil we are assailed by…”
[He must then be an inhabitant of the Universe, otherwise how can he act as a “helpmeet” if he is struggling against himself?]

“If as a species we had never sinned…”
[If sin had never been created and if the Universe had not been divided into two parts from the very beginning by its creator]

“God has nothing to fear from Satan…”
[An omniscient, omnipotent God would not, could not fear his own creation. That would amount to fear of himself. I return to my original point ““ the God of the Bible must then be an inhabitant of the Universe]

“He intervenes when we pray to him…”
“He arranges for us a life-trajectory in which we are purged of our faults, lifted up spiritually, and become new celestial creatures in Him”
[Those are not arguments. They are declarations of faith]

“We seem to be at odds about the Battle with Evil”
[Not exactly. I return to my original point ““ to engage in any sort of a battle/conflict/struggle the God of the Bible must be an inhabitant of the Universe rather than the Creator and Universe itself]

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

“I return to my original point ““ to engage in any sort of a
battle/conflict/struggle the God of the Bible must be an inhabitant of
the Universe rather than the Creator and Universe itself”.

I agree and believe that that is what He did. God the Son, begotten by God the Father before all worlds (Christians mystically believe that God is one deity but at the same time three persons in one), divested himself of His transcendent glory and took our nature and its limitations upon Him, so as to battle with evil in a supreme exemplary instance of the conflict in which other human beings need to engage.

If I have been ‘presuming’, then so have almost all denominations of Christian churches these past 199 decades; for what I have been attempting is to convey (and I blushingly confess I have done it very unskilfully) is orthodox Christian doctrine: what was revealed to the Apostles and other disciples before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus and what has been professed by all traditional Christians these nearly 2 millenia gone by.

Of course it is always better to go back to original sources, not a prolix sermonizer like me. If you don’t already know it, let me humbly recommend you read the New Testament, also the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

May I also suggest Lee Strobel’s book ‘The Case for Christ’ or the movie (same title) issued in 2017 out of that book.

Strobel was a journalist of the old good school; you know in the days not so long ago when journalists did lots of real research and tried to find out what is going on and then report that to the public honestly – so different from the propaganda machine operating as ‘journalism’ now.

He was an ardent militant atheist; and horrified when his wife became a Christian. He felt as if she was betraying him with another man, albeit a figment of her imagination; and in his desperation to rescue the marriage which he saw was slipping away, cut apart by this knife, he went roundly and deeply into the evidence for believing the resurrection of the Christ from the dead.

What he wanted to do was to show her that she had joined a cult and was throwing her intellectual dignity away.

So he began using all spare time and some professional hours too digging to find refutation after refutation of this absurd myth.

He had a lengthy painful journey; and it did not bring him out where he expected and passionately hoped to be.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Another sermon. Honestly, you really can be a bit long-winded. I get the message ““ you are a true believer in Christ.

I’m not sure why you are so desperate to repeatedly declare your faith to me when (as far as I am aware) I have not actually set out to attack Christianity or deny the existence of Christ. Perhaps by arguing that the God of the Bible is less than the creator of the Universe I have struck at something fundamental.

Anyway, I’m afraid that our discussion has now come down to
“Oh no he isn’t” versus “Oh yes he is”. Perhaps it’s time to wind it up.
Thanks for the reference to Lee Strobel. I will check him out although I must say that “prodigal son” themes are an evangelical favourite.

By the way, I just finished watching Franco Rossi’s version of Quo Vadis this morning. Worth a look if you can stand the awful dubbing.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

I think my long-windedness is at least partly explained by my scratching around trying to understand your original point/question.

You remarked ‘For God to have installed himself as a character in the grand cosmic drama after having created the cosmos itself he must become a very, very reduced version of the being which created the Universe. As a character he would need to forget that act of creation and forget his omnipotence. Otherwise the fight against evil would be no more than a sham.’

At this point I rubbed my eyes; and still do. Christians have believed all along that God did become a very, very reduced version of the being who created the Universe – in the person of His only begotten Son. Whether or not the Divine Son forgot the act of creation (on the Cross where He lost all sense of divine support, He certainly seemed so to do), He definitely laid aside His omnipotence and participated in human life on our terms.

You can of course declare a disbelief in traditional Christian doctrine; but even so, my brain has been from the first a bit frazzled by your making an orthodox Christian obervation in order to say that this proves the God of religion/the Bible is not the creator of the Universe.

I feel at the same sort of loss that most would experience if someone came along and pointed out that 12 x 6 = 72 (agreed) and 72 x 6 = 432 (yes); and that that demonstrated the flawed nature of Euclidean mathematics.

If Euclid has flaws (cf Einstein’s theories), they are not of the above sort, surely?

I agree, we’ll let the matter rest. Perhaps one day I shall be visited by a bright inspiration which conveys to me the objection or core-theme you have kindly been striving to communicate to me.

I apologise meanwhile for my slow-wittedness.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Thank you for your heroic arguments Peter.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Thankyou for this reassuring comment!

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Re your “original point”: the problem with that is your assumption that we humans fully understand the universe and life, it’s as if you place yourself on the same level as God, or imagine God is of the material world we think we know. But what if God is beyond our comprehension?

I think there are mysteries at the centre of life that we will never understand because we do not have the capacity to do so, we are not gods.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

If God is beyond our comprehension there is no discussion to be had ““ unless you enjoy futile talks about about God’s ineffability.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Exactly.

Starry Gordon
SG
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, God would have to create evil and give it permission to exist in order to have some around to fight. That is, if he/she/it/they were subject to human reason and perceptual limitations. The out here for God is that of not being bound by what are, after all, facets of the creation. But from a human point of view, God does seem to be stuck.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

God has not created evil.

Rebel angels and delinquent free will in us have done that.

Nor is He stuck, except in the sense that every one of the creatures made in His image can choose to be perverse, rotten, nasty; and in the last analysis His commitment to meaningfulness is so absolute that He cannot coerce them into becoming good.

He is like an ideal parent whose daughters can all yet decide to become harlots and whose sons can yet choose to be gangsters.

Such an outcome breaks His heart but he cannot rob them of their spiritual dignity by taking those freedoms of choice away from them.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

But gods can do anything. No use trying to apply mere human logic.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

This ideal can never happen because it is totally at variance with human nature.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

“Human nature” is three-fold-physical/mental/spiritual. It is our minds that we aspire to understand and reach for the spiritual. Our long road from the prehistoric to the present is one of slow progression, but we do progress.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

You think you might be a better person than Aristotle or St Augustine?
Might I be a better person than Florence Nightingale or Elizabeth Fry?

I think your confidence in human “progress” is misplaced. Please explain how it fits in with what occurred in the 20th century in Russia, China, Germany and Cambodia ?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

I should think that in prehistoric times there were relatively as many imperfect people as today!

Otto Christensen
Otto Christensen
3 years ago

To suggest that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, a theory that is in its essence about the nature of the material world, had a cosmological aspect is mixing nonsense and ego with science.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

If today’s culture war resembles the Reformation, the instant conclusion is that man hasn’t learned a thing, that the urge to silence differing views or brand them as heretics and unpersons is as natural as the desire to breathe.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It’s curious, though. Why should I care about what you think about the gods or, for that matter, the binomial theorem?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

I’m not sure about Tom’s Martin Luther and Twitter idea.
It may have been a case with Martin Luther of “Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” Commerce was expanding across the continent, towns and cities growing rapidly; the kind of wealth that generated for ordinary energetic people gave them more confidence and independence than they had ever had before, which no longer fitted so well with traditional Catholicism, Protestantism was bound to happen.

Twitter seems to me to behave like a digital collective unconscious where moral panics and mobs thrive. I think Youtube would be the more likely place for Martin Luther with his angry, bitter rants, did’nt he have a bad relationship with his father which made him neurotically anti-authority ?

alanhross
alanhross
3 years ago

WRITING HIS 95 THESES IS ADMIRABLE IF THERE IS “A GOD” IF THERE ISN’T, ITS THE RAVING OF A LUNATIC – OBVIOUSLY EXTREMELY ARTICULATE.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
3 years ago
Reply to  alanhross

Indeed. I’ve heard he even used both capital and lower case letters as appropriate.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

On the subject of the printed word, are publishers now turning into its effectual enemy?

I should like to possess all seven volumes of the Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, carefully assembled and annotated by diligent scholars and issued by Oxford University Press. Possessing them would mean being able to read them and then reread in them from time to time at will, rather than either (a) having to wait for them in borrowing them through the public library system; or (b) travelling to a copyright library and studying them there.

Each volume is several hundred pages long; and they cost between £127.50 and £152 EACH.

This sort of mulct is true now of all manner of first-class editions of classics. I could list thousands of such titles and such prices attached to them.

Does it not make scholarship available only to the likes of Bill Gates?

gawain
gawain
3 years ago

I suspect that Savronola would be adept at using Twitter mobs.

J J
J J
3 years ago

If you get of group of people together in a room, told them they could say anything, abuse anyone, commit libel, slander, lie, vent their anger and remain anonymous and never be traced, identified or held accountable for what they say – you would have a physical version of twitter.

We do not allow such a physical group to exist. So why do we allow it to exist virtually on the internet?

We clearly need rules for the internet, although how to do that remains a perplexing challenge. However doing nothing is no longer an option. Removing anonymity is one option (although not without its challenges)

It’s interesting that Linkedin does not seem to have the problems we have on twitter and youtube. People are just inherently more reasonable and civil when they know they will be held accountable for what they say and do. There is still debate on linkedin, just not the dysfunctional hell hole of abuse you find on twitter and youtube.

Peter Shaw
PS
Peter Shaw
3 years ago

Interesting that Luther would now be classed as a more orthodox Catholic than Pope Francis

pearce.douglas
pearce.douglas
3 years ago

to draw upon the most stirring of all Luther’s qualities:

Seriously? I consider it reasonable to suggest that Luther was one of the foremost anti-Semites of his day and along with the supposed ‘blood curse’ in gMatthew has been instrumental in promoting/prolonging anti- Semitism.