Luther on Being a Theologian

August 21, 2010

Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman, professor of Church History and Historical Theology, has started a short series of blog posts on Martin Luther's view about what makes a theologian.

Below is a short excerpt from the first post on Martin Luther, see below. To see the rest of Dr. Trueman's blogs, inclucing subsequent posts on Martin Luther, visit his Reformation21 page here.

"I want to start a short series of posts today on Martin Luther's understanding of what makes a theologian. The sources for reflection are primarily two: a passage from his Table Talk (no. 3425; not as far as I know available in the standard English translations) and the preface to the first edition of his German works (1539; available in vol. 34 of the Philadelphia edition of Luther's works in translation).

The preface contains just three things that mark out a theologian: prayer; meditation; and agonizing struggle. The Tabletalk lists six: the grace of the Spirit; agonizing struggle; experience; opportunity; careful and constant reading; and a practical knowledge of the academic disciplines. As the shorter is, by and large, subsumed under the longer, I will use the six headings for the next six posts.

As a prologue, however, I want to draw attention to the fact that Luther does not talk about what constitutes theology but about what makes a theologian. This is somewhat characteristic of his approach: many people have noted the importance of his "theology of the cross," which he articulated most dramatically at the Heidelberg Disputation in 1518; but the text of the disputation theses do not speak of a theology of the cross; rather they speak of a theologian of the cross. Theology, for Luther, is the words spoken by human beings in response to the words God has first spoken to them; thus, theology is a personal action; and therefore, there can be no discussion of theology without first discussing the agent, the one who speaks theologically. Theology is an abstraction unless it is understood as the action of the theologian."

To read the rest of this blog, click here. To see more posts by Dr. Trueman, as well as posts by Westminster Alumni Dr. Philip Ryken, Dr. Stephen Nichols, Rev. Richard Phillips, and Dr. Sean Lucas, among other notable theologians, visit the Reformation21 Website.