As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the books I’ve assigned Jonathan (our soon-to-be 14 year old) to read this summer is Roland Bainton’s classic biography of Martin Luther, Here I Stand. I’ve also been re-reading this book, preparing for a series of sermons on the 5 Solas of the Reformation as we celebrate the 500th anniversary this October.
This book has so many wonderful passages, but one that struck me had had to do with Luther’s sense of wonder at the glory of God in the world around him. He had a theological rival named Erasmus, who defended the Catholic Church’s positions on papal authority, priestly celibacy and more. Luther felt that part of Erasmus’ problem was that he did not see the marvels of God in this life, in this world. He was convinced that a strong, vibrant faith was one that saw God’s hand in absolutely everything. This is how Bainton articulates Luther’s view of God in nature:
How amazing are the clouds sustained without pillars and the firmament of heaven upheld without columns! How fair are the birds of heaven and the lilies of the field! ‘If you could understand a single grain of wheat, you would die for wonder.’
God is in all this. He is in every creature, inwardly and outwardly, through and through, over and under, behind and before, so that nothing can be more inward and hidden in any creature than God. ‘In him we live, and move, and have our being.’ Without him is naught.
God fills all the world, but by the world he is not contained. ‘Where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend up into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there.’
But who sees all this? Only faith and spirit. The trouble with Erasmus is that he is not stupefied with wonder at the child in the womb. He does not contemplate marriage with a reverent amazement, nor praise and thank God for the marvel of a flower or the bursting of a peach stone by the swelling seed. He beholds these wonders like a cow staring at a new door.
The deficiency of faith is made evident by a lack of wonder…
– Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, 1978 edition, pp.167-168