Phillip Cary, Ph.D. Complete Interview



    I'm Philip Cary. I teach philosophy at Eastern University just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So here's Augustine, who is Luther's favorite theologian, and Augustine is

    putting us on a journey to God. It's a journey of love, loving God with your
    whole heart, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. But as long as

    you're on the journey, you're not home yet; you haven't arrived, you're
    imperfect for as long as the journey is not completed - which means the journey always is the journey of a sinner. And the question is, how serious is this sin

    as a way of holding you back on the journey? How seriously will this sin
    prevent you from reaching the end of the journey, which is eternal life with God? If the journey is a journey of love, if it's all about heading toward God,

    there's the little sins - they call them venial sins - which slow you down on the
    journey, but then there's the big sins, the mortal sins which turn you around and you go in the opposite direction, and you end up the very opposite place from Heaven with God: you end up in eternal torment, and that's a really serious problem, which is why you need penance. Penance is what restores the state of

    love or charity as they called it: This state of loving God with something

    close to your whole heart, mind and strength. And if you don't have penance,
    then you're stuck with these mortal sins which are called mortal because they're eternal death. And the deep problem is that by the time you get to Luther in

    the 16th century, nobody's sure whether they're in a state of mortal sin or not.
    It's actually, it's official Catholic teaching that you can't be sure whether

    you're in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin; and if you're in a state
    of mortal sin, and you die, then that is the beginning of eternal punishment in Hell. And in the 16th century, that had a lot of people very, very frightened.

    How do you know what your fate is going to be when you die? Well, in the
    16th century the teaching of the church was, you can't know. And that

    created what Luther called the terrified conscience. When Luther was aware of his

    own sins, when ordinary people in the 16th century were aware of their
    own sins, they didn't feel what we call guilt, at least when they described it.

    It doesn't sound like what we call guilt feelings; it was terror, and that
    terrified conscience was the state of people that Luther was preaching to when he was preaching the new Protestant Gospel that he'd worked out in 1517, 1518, 1519.

    Purgatory is what happens if you find all those mortal sins by confessing them

    in the Sacrament of Penance, and all the really mortal sins in your

    found; for instance, there's this really interesting and difficult problem: Jesus

    says if you hate your neighbor in your heart, it's as if you committed murder.
    Well, murder is a mortal sin; the hatred in your heart is mortal sin even if you haven't committed murder; it's murderousness of the heart and you need to find that and confess it. And then, here you are, this ordinary 16th century Christian, and what happens when you die and there's still a lot of that remnant

    of this mortal murderousness in your heart? Well, you don't go to hell because

    you've confessed your sins. But you really need to make up for that
    murderousness in your heart; something has to fix it, to cleanse it, to purge it - purgatory means cleansing. So you spend years and years cleansing the remnants

    of mortal sin out of your heart. What's fascinating is, purgatory had become
    something different by Luther's time, because if you read Dante's purgatory, in

    Dante there's literally angels around every corner in purgatory; there's music!
    People help each other. Purgatory is a good place in Dante. But by Luther's time,

    300 years later, purgatory was essentially temporary Hell. When people

    imagined it or preached about it, it was not a place of angels, it was a place of
    devils. It was demons tormenting you just like Hell, and the only difference is that it's temporary. That is, it might last a few thousand years or so. And so, people, ordinary Christians, hoping not to go to

    Hell, expected that they would end up in
    purgatory for several thousand years of being tortured by demons, which means that they really did have an incentive to try to shorten their stay in purgatory.

    So, here you are: you're worried about your long stay in purgatory being
    tortured, or maybe you're worried about your mother or your father who might be in purgatory right now being tortured, and wouldn't it be nice if you could get them out of purgatory free as it were, you know, kind of a get out of purgatory free card? Well you can buy a get out of purgatory free card: it's called an indulgence. And when you buy that indulgence, at least as it was being preached in the 16th century by a man named Tetzel, who was preaching in the area around Wittenberg where Luther was a pastor, what you can do is you put

    the money in the box, and Tetzel promised that as soon as the money goes into the
    box, a soul goes out of purgatory, and into Heaven. So you can literally buy your mother or father an entry ticket into Heaven. Wouldn't you be willing to spend that kind of money? You can imagine the sales pitch, right? Like, what kind of son or daughter are you, if you're not willing to pay a little bit of silver to free your mother, your father, from thousands

    of years of torture? Come on! You can do this! It's not that much: pay up! And so

    they were paying, and the money went: it was split halfsies; the money went

    half to the Pope in Rome and help build St. Peter's; the other half went to

    Albert of Mainz, the most important archbishop in Germany. And the funny

    thing is, this is the guy that Luther was writing to: he sent the 95 Theses to
    Albert of Mainz saying, look at this terrible corruption, this abuse of the

    Church's teaching! You've got to fix this, because people are being misled by this,
    and the Pope doesn't like it either I'm sure! So we gotta fix this, right? And he's writing to the guy who's making half of the money from the indulgences; the other half is going to Rome with the Pope. He had no idea that in fact the people he

    was appealing to, to take care of this Christian flock, were actually the ones
    who are making money from the indulgences.

    So here's Luther, and his concern is that these people are thinking they
    can buy their way into Heaven, and that's just not true: it's gonna lead them to spiritual complacency, it's gonna be bad for their spiritual lives. It's a pastoral concern for Luther that they're gonna be misled by this, and this is gonna be spiritually bad for them. So in order to fix this, he's thinking about

    what are indulgences, what do they do, what is the proper theology of
    indulgences? They can't save you from purgatory, they can't get you into Heaven, and the indulgences can't do what Tetzel was saying they could do. So what

    Luther did - he was a Bible professor at the University of Wittenberg, so he
    decided, let's have an academic dispute about this, so we can clarify our minds about what indulgences actually do. Because the theology of indulgences at the time was in fact rather unclear; it really needed further development, further thought, and that's exactly what a university theology professor is supposed to do. So Luther wrote up these 95 Theses which were meant to be a topic of disputation, which is a standard academic exercise in a medieval

    university. You get a bunch of theology professors together, you have a
    discussion of these theses: are they true, etc., etc. The theses are in fact rather rambling; they're not really a literary document, they are just a whole

    set of thoughts that Luther writes down and says essentially to his
    colleagues, help me figure out if this stuff is true, and how to do this. The funny thing is, in fact, that when he sent his letter to Albert of Mainz, he sent these 95 Theses dated October 31st, 1517, which is why we have that date, and then he also sent a little treatise on indulgences which was much better

    argued, much more reasonable, and that's actually his considered opinion. What
    ended up happening is that the 95 Theses are the ones that got attention. Luther's

    treatise on indulgences, which is about five pages, a very nicely reasoned little
    theological argument, was pretty much forgotten for about 500 years. The 95

    Theses, on the other hand: what happened is that somebody that Luther was
    circulating these theses to, probably some academic friend, gave them to the printer - gave them to the printer in Wittenberg, the university town where Luther was a teacher, and the printer printed up numerous copies, and then it got to the next town over, and another printer picked it up and printed it, and then it got to the next town over, and another printer printed it. And there were a couple of dozen editions within the next few months. It was astonishing: this is the very first document in the history of the world that goes viral.

    No one expected this to happen; no one had really thought about the possibility of
    one printer and another printer and another printer, and pretty soon there are copies of this thing translated into German so everyone can read it, circulating all over Germany, and causing a real ruckus.

    So here we have this document which is originally an academic document, and it's

    circulating throughout Germany, and it's circulating among people who are not
    academics. These are not professors, these are just ordinary Germans reading this

    and they're thinking, oh my goodness, good grief, these indulgences, they're a
    sham! These indulgences which I paid good money for are not going to save my mother or father from purgatory; they're not going to accomplish anything. This doctor, this teacher - doctor means, you know, somebody with a doctor's degree from the University of Wittenberg, one of these great scholars named Martin Luther - never heard of him before, but my goodness, he seems to be showing that this is a fraud! And I

    happen to know now that all the money is going from Germany down to Rome, so the
    the Pope is just milking us Germans for all this money, and it doesn't do anything, and this is outrageous! The German princes need to get together and do something about this, so that we stop getting cheated by this jerk down in Rome who's a charlatan! And that's enough to get the Reformation started. Luther is a funny guy: he wants to just have this academic dispute, but

    Luther has a tongue on him. Luther has a sharp tongue. He's a man of vehement
    opinions. I had the sense Luther is somebody who, he blurts: he's holding stuff in and trying to behave himself, and then all of a

    sudden, he lets it out, and it is just verbally powerful. This man has a tongue

    on him; he speaks in a German that ordinary people can understand. When he
    starts writing his own stuff in German, it reaches people and it touches them and it gets them angry and upset and it makes them mobilized. And one of the things that the Pope didn't understand, as the Pope is trying to suppress this drunken German as he is reputed to have said, is that this guy can write, and he

    can write in German, and it reaches people and he keeps writing and he
    literally just out-writes the Pope. And the printing press, which is a new invention only about 50 years old, is disseminating this stuff everywhere, and you can't put a lid on it! Earlier heretics, before the age of the printing press, you couldn't do it. I mean, you could get rid of these people, right? You could get rid of them very easily. But Luther, you can't get rid of, for two reasons: one is, he's writing all this stuff that's being printed and it's much more powerful and moving than the stuff that the Pope's people are writing; and two is, the German princes are on his side because they don't like all that money being shipped down to Rome either. So they're protecting him. So we've got a different situation than previous heretics who were burned at the stake; this guy Luther cannot be gotten rid of.

    The first of the 95 Theses says that all of our life is a life of penance. So
    Luther as a monk - and we happen to know this because we have his lectures as a university professor lecturing to other monks - he was teaching people that

    their whole life is a life of penance, repentance, and indeed self-hatred: that's
    thesis number four, I believe, where your whole life really ought to be a life of self-hatred because that's what sinners ought to do - they should hate themselves. And he was very serious about this; in his early writings he said, look, you should hate yourself like someone who sincerely hates his enemy and wants him to be damned, and you should resign yourself to damnation for God's glory, and that way you'll be justified in God's sight. It was really kind of spiritual masochism. And he was trying to practice this self-hatred as a monk, and it wasn't working for him. And what ended up happening is, in order to

    think about penance and indulgences, he had to think about the Sacrament of
    Penance for the first time in his career. He hadn't been writing about this ever before. So what he did is, he had to think about this moment in the Sacrament of Penance when the priest says, I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And that's based on Christ's promise

    that what you absolve on earth will be absolved in Heaven. And that means, Luther
    concluded in 1518 less than a year after the 95 Theses, that this is God

    Himself forgiving your sins. And so instead of hating yourself and trying to

    punish yourself because you're such a sinner, and this inward penance of
    self-hatred, you're supposed to believe that your sins are forgiven, because Jesus Christ Himself has promised that when you hear that word you're forgiven - and who are you to call Christ a liar? So you're gonna have to believe that you are forgiven, and not someone that God hates, and therefore not someone who should hate himself. And that is what Luther later calls the gospel: the gospel

    of Jesus Christ. Good news. So instead of hating yourself in a life of penance,
    it's a life of receiving the good news because this is the promise of God, and it's a gracious and kind word, and that's what you ought to believe. Luther thought there should be both law and gospel, and that the Bible contains both kinds of discourse: both law and gospel. There two kinds of discourse, two ways that God talks to us. The law is the commandments, like the Ten

    Commandments; the gospel is the promises. So, think of two different ways of
    someone talking to you: one is someone who can give you rules and say this is what you have to do, and if you don't do this, you're in trouble! That's law. And God gets us in trouble for doing all this stuff that we shouldn't do; that's sin. But then the gospel is this promise that says things like, I absolve you of your sins, or most powerfully of all, this is my body, it's

    given for you. And you're supposed to believe that, because it's God's own
    promise, it's God's own word. So imagine especially the kind of promise by which

    one person gives themself to another, such as a wedding vow where the

    bridegroom says to his bride, I am yours and you are mine, and the bride
    herself responds, I am my beloved's, and he is mine, because he's promised; because that's his word. I can count on that word. So what Luther's thinking is, the law

    reminds us that we're sinners and drives us to the gospel so that we hang on for
    dear life to this gracious and kind promise of God who gives Himself and gives His own son to us. Luther was really worried about that terrified

    conscience, because he knew what it was like to be terrified.
    So, to understand Luther I think you have to start with that situation of terror and helplessness, of abject helplessness and terror, in the face of the judgment

    of God. What can you do in the face of God's judgment which makes you helpless?

    What you do is you hang on to the promise of God. Well then: what happens
    next? Here you have this promise of God where God graciously gives you his own Son. This is wonderful, is great news; but now you have a life to live, and Luther says, look, you receive the Gospel by faith alone, but then there's the

    Christian life, and the Christian life is a life of love. So in faith, we live
    in Christ. In love, we live for our neighbor. So our works of love, which we are supposed to do, don't save us, they don't justify us, they don't make us Christians. But our neighbor needs them, right? I don't need my good works to save myself, Luther's thinking, but my neighbor needs my good works - and that's why God gave me to my neighbor. That's why God saves me through Christ, so that I can give myself to my neighbor. And anyone who's not doing that is probably someone who doesn't have real faith in Christ to begin with.

    If Luther were here today, I'm hoping he'd be worried about the same things
    that worry me, because I find that there's a certain kind of Lutheran

    preaching of the gospel that really reaches people - even people who don't
    have the terrified conscience of the 16th century. Many people in our day are not exactly afraid of going to hell if they die tonight. But, many Christians

    today are deeply shaped by a kind of performance anxiety, I'll call it: they're

    worried about whether they're really good Christians, and
    they keep on trying to convince themselves that their Christian life is going well, that they're living the abundant life and all that sort of thing. And then, when they mess up, instead of doing something ordinary and, you know, sort of

    doing something sensible like confessing their sins, they're feeling all
    like there's something wrong with their Christian life - maybe they're not really Christian and so on. Luther's preaching of the Gospel is a wonderful remedy for

    performance anxiety. It's a way of saying, look, yes, you're a sinner; yes,

    your Christian life is never going to be perfect; but you know what? The perfection
    belongs to Christ Jesus, who's given to you by faith alone. Meanwhile your works of love which are not perfect, they're good enough for your neighbor. That's why you do it. So instead of worrying whether you're really truly a good Christian in your heart, let Jesus Christ worry about that. Meanwhile, you worry about your neighbor. And instead of asking the question "is my Christian life good enough?" - ask the question, "is what I'm doing for my

    neighbor actually good for my neighbor?" That's the question that love asks; love
    does not ask the question "am I a loving enough Christian?" - that's kind of narcissistic, isn't it? And what I love about Luther's notion of the Gospel is that it frees love to actually be love, instead of people trying to prove to themselves that they're good Christians. Now, one of the things that does happen in Luther's thinking is he insists that in order to understand the Gospel,

    you have to understand that the Gospel is for me.
    That the good news of the Gospel is not just for the whole world - it is

    for everybody, but it's also in particular for me. So the words

    of absolution say, I forgive you of your sins, I absolve you of your sins, in
    the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: I absolve you! This is my body given for you - and you need to realize, this is for you. But the wonderful thing is, I think that it's an external word, and Luther insists

    on this. It's not all about my experience of myself; it's not all about how I

    experience myself as a Christian; it is about the word of the beloved who says,
    "This is my body given for you" - so that I really can say I am my beloved's, and he is mine. There's a kind of individual experience of grace, but it's not based

    on an inward turn where it's all about me and my experience of my feelings.
    Because, you know, you can go to church sometimes, and so many poor pastors are

    trying to be relevant all the time, and they're trying to make it all about me!
    And my experience of the Christian life is, enough churches, good grief, I don't

    come to church for it to be all about me! And wouldn't it be nice if instead of
    talking about me and my experience and my heart and my life, I get to talk about my beloved, about Christ, about my neighbor, about something other than me, me, me all the time! And I think Luther's actually very good about that, because what the Christian life is about is my neighbor, not myself.

    One of the nice things about Luther's thought, I think, is that he distinguishes

    between what he calls two kingdoms: there's the kingdom of God, and then
    there's the earthly kingdom, the kingdom of ordinary politics - and he doesn't

    expect a lot of ordinary politics. That is, he doesn't expect a lot can come of
    it. The Christian life is a life of love. You're supposed to be doing a whole lot to help your neighbor, but you can't really expect to change the world and transform the world because that's the job of God. It's God who transforms the world ultimately, and it's not our job to be the ones to make all the difference

    in the world; it's our job to love our neighbor. And I think that's good sense.

    There's no one I'm more suspicious of than someone who wants to change the
    world. Hitler did that, he changed the world; so did Stalin, so did Mao.

    I don't want to be one of those people who change the world, and if you want to
    transform me and my world, I say, you know, get away - watch out, you're dangerous. What I need, what all of us need, is people to be good neighbors, not people who are going to be change agents transforming the world. The Reformation is a movement that changed the world, despite Luther's intentions. He was not trying to change the world, he was just trying to get straight on the theology of indulgences, and then on the theology of the Gospel, and then he wanted to help people who had these terrified consciences, and give them Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. It turns out

    that if you care about the individuals around you - if you care about giving a

    good word, especially the good word of the Gospel to the people you know -
    I think that makes a much bigger and better difference in the long run, than

    attempts to change the world. Love doesn't change the world by a program of

    transformation that you impose on other people; love changes the world by being

    kind and generous and occasionally self-sacrificing, and thinking about what

    other people need and doing what's needed for them.

    We all know that music has this way of moving our hearts; it has some deep sort

    of immediate tentacle that reaches out and touches our emotions. And so what we
    do with music is terribly important: it shapes us in all sorts of ways. And there

    were some Christians going back to the ancient church who were suspicious of it,
    because of how it moved us. Luther, on the other hand, loved it because it cheers us up. He has this wonderful little essay where he says, music drives away the

    devil because it cheers you up and drives away fear. But of course, the kind
    of music that he wanted is a music that is tied to the word of God. And this is a

    wonderful thing: there is so much western music that is tied to the word of God,
    that puts the Bible into music, puts the Gospel into music - and you can sing this stuff, and it becomes a favorite song. Luther loved how our hearts could be

    shaped by the word of God, by the Lord's Prayer - the Lord's Prayer being like a

    favorite song that we can learn by heart - but then think of all the other music we
    can learn by heart. I remember one of the best things that ever happened to me was joining a choir where we sang Bach and Palestrina and all this

    wonderful music that set the Bible and the Christian tradition to music. And it

    became part of my heart, part of my experience, part of the way I felt the
    world. And that's one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Christian

    tradition, is that we have musicians like especially, most wonderfully of all,

    Johann Sebastian Bach. If you're a Lutheran, my goodness, this is probably
    the greatest Lutheran theologian of the 18th century, is Johann Sebastian Bach. And he puts Luther's theology and the Bible to music in ways that get deep into

    our hearts, and I think in the end make us different people
    which is an absolutely wonderful, wonderful thing.

    One of the most important features of the history of the church is how the
    church has related to new developments in media. So the church has often been an

    early adopter of new developments in media. In the early times of the ancient

    church, the church was one of the first institutions to adopt the book: not the
    scroll, which is the way that Jewish and Roman writers would write, but the book where you flipped pages, because that allowed you to look stuff up, and flip from,say, the the first part of the Gospel of John, to the last part of the Gospel of John, and compare passages. So the church loved that new technological innovation of the book with pages, rather than the scroll. Then along comes a thousand years later the Gutenberg Press, and Luther adopts the press and uses it

    to essentially drive the Papacy out of Germany. But both of those inventions

    were ways of deepening your contact with the written word of God, so that the word

    of God could come out of the page and into your mouth, into your ears, into

    your heart. Part of our problem today is we've got a new media that more or less

    distances ourselves from a really deep interaction with words - you know, we have

    140 characters in Twitter, we have Facebook posts that, well, no one's going

    to read more than a couple paragraphs. We've lost a lot of our ability to pay
    careful attention to a text. So now our attention spans are shorter, our ability

    to grasp text is less, and as a result, that favorite song, that text that ought

    to be writing itself into our hearts, is less deeply part of our hearts because
    we're distracted by trivialities: lots and lots of texts, but none of it that

    gets deeply into us. One way of thinking about this, I've thought about: imagine

    Googling the name Jesus Christ, and you would get of course a bunch of
    of hits; and then try Googling the same name a year later: there'll be

    an entirely different set of hits. You won't be looking at the same text, which is
    very different from opening a Bible and looking at the same text that you've looked at in love and faith and hope for years and years and years. So our

    relationship to the Word of God is different because of our distraction,
    because the texts that we work with are evanescent, trivial, transient; and we

    don't really learn the word of God the way we used to.

    So Luther was an insomniac. He would wake up in the middle of the night and

    thoughts would be running in his head, and they would accuse him and terrify
    him - that terrified conscience business again - and he would say that these are the thoughts that come from the devil: which say things like, "Martin Luther, how

    could you be the only one who's right? You are upsetting a thousand years of
    Christian history, you're defying the Pope. Maybe what you're doing is driving

    a lot of people who follow you into Hell because of your false teaching!" And you
    can imagine that kind of thought eating at him all night, and he's wrestling with

    these thoughts, and he's thinking that he's wrestling with the devil,
    because these are thoughts that won't let him go. He calls these thoughts Anfechtung, which is this wonderful German word that means assault, attack - the

    devils are attacking him and trying to make him despair and give up the Gospel.

    And he says this is how you become a theologian, is you get attacked by the
    devil. You have these wrestles with the devil in the middle of the night, because you have to hang on to the Gospel even though the devil is trying to make you give up and despair and give up the Reformation and give up what you've been preaching and teaching. And what Anfechtung, this temptation by the devil, teaches you is that everything depends on hanging onto the Gospel of Jesus Christ for dear life. So you can't be a theologian unless the devil's attacking you now and then, says Luther. We all have our Anfechtungen, we all have the things

    that tempt us, to despair, tempt us to give up hope that Christ is Lord, to give

    up hope that the Gospel is true - we all have those temptations, and we all
    wrestle with them. And when I wake up in the middle of the night with those kind of dark thoughts, I don't identify them with the voice of the devil, but I am tempted to give up hope; I am tempted to think the

    church is such a mess, there's no hope for us, Christianity must fail
    because of what a wreck it's made of itself in the past, oh, couple of decades - and at that moment, you have to hang on to the Gospel

    when you don't really feel like you have a reason to, other than: this is what
    you've been hanging on to your whole life, and this is the promise of God. You hang onto it even if all the evidence seems to go against it. And that's the hard, hard work of Christian faith.

    Luther and the Jews is such a difficult subject, because - I'm someone who loves

    Luther. He's my favorite theologian in the Christian tradition, outside the
    Bible, and I think he's the only great Christian theologian I know of who's written stuff that I think is just positively wicked. The stuff he wrote about the Jews is just wrong. There's no excuse for it. He had written one

    beautiful little treatise called "That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew" which

    basically said, now that we're no longer under the Pope, we can stop persecuting
    the Jews and just preach the gospel to them - and, you know, if they don't believe, well, look, we're not such great Christians ourselves! And if that was the attitude he stayed with, then we would have had a much different Luther and a much different relationship to Judaism. Instead, what he does is he suggests: here's a couple of passages you can use from the Bible that explain how only

    Jesus of Nazareth could possibly be the fulfillment of the messianic promises to

    the Jews. So you use these passages from the Bible to show the Jews that Jesus
    has to be the Messiah. And if they don't believe, well, we're not such great Christians. That's his view in 1526. In the 1530s he hears about Jews who are

    proselytizing and converting Christians, and he gets very upset. And I think

    Luther has a kind of trigger, and the trigger is: somebody's trying to take the

    Word of God away from him. When he fights against the Pope starting in 1520 or so,

    it's because the Pope wants to take the gospel away from us. When he fights
    against other Protestants, it's because they're taking the Gospel away. When he fights against the Jews, it's because they're taking away the Gospel. But the Pope is not someone that Luther can harm or threaten; Jews are people that Luther can do harm to. And he actually recommends that, you know, if these Jews

    keep on insisting that their view of the Bible is right instead of ours, we have
    to do something about this! And he makes all sorts of horrible recommendations: burn their books, burn their synagogues, kick them out of the country; his worst recommendation, which you don't often hear about - it's really pretty terrifying - is that if they pray or praise God or worship as Jews in

    our country, that should be a capital crime; that is, we should kill them for
    worshiping as Jews. This is just horrifying, and it's so bad that when

    Luther wrote these books and they were circulating down towards Strasbourg on
    the border of Germany and France, the government there said, we're not gonna let this be printed in our city because it'll cause social unrest and it's just not allowable. So they censored Luther's books; and I'm someone who doesn't like censorship, but I think that that's a good move: don't print this book, it's really awful. Let the scholar study it and say why Luther is wrong, but don't let this stuff circulate - it's really vile poison.

    Yeah, well, you know, you read the news and it's enough to make you depressed or
    confused or despairing. The question is, what gives us hope for the future? And

    the thing about Luther that I love is that he keeps directing our attention to

    the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the fact that Jesus is Lord, and that God wants to
    give us his own son. And every time I hear that, especially if you put it to music, it cheers me up, and it gives me hope. And that's why I live as a

    Christian, because I need that hope. I think our self-centeredness, our focus

    on "who I am and why I matter and why I'm at the center of the world" is a problem

    that we've had - that we have had, not just I - we have had this problem ever since

    Adam, for heaven's sakes. Sin is an old, old problem, and it's not going to be

    solved tomorrow, and the only reason to hope that it's going to be solved in the
    end is that Jesus is Lord. So you have to keep looking away from yourself, says Luther, but don't expect that the world is going to turn into a nice place overnight, because the world is still full of a great many horrible things, and you open up the newspaper or your favorite website, and you'll still find horrible things that will make you depressed. That's the way life is going to be until Kingdom come. There's much about Luther, when I read him, I think, you

    know, I would like to spend time with a calmer person like Philip Melanchthon
    his best friend - he's much more like I am. Luther is a difficult person. But I think

    we needed him, and there are moments when he's just wonderful. He takes the Gospel

    very, very seriously; he does not take himself seriously. And he makes wonderful
    jokes at his own expense. One of Luther's jokes about himself: he says, "The world is

    like a gigantic asshole, and I am like a ripe piece of shit. We shall soon be

    parted." That's Luther's view of himself. He does not take himself very seriously.

    Luther expected that the world was going to end soon, that the Antichrist
    was the Pope - and that the end of the world was coming soon. He, I think, was exhausted at the end of his life, because he'd been fighting these demons in his

    night watches, with this Anfechtungen, these thoughts in his head.
    I don't think he got a lot of sleep for the last twenty years of his life. So he was ready to call it quits, he was ready to go. But as a result, in the end he was

    happy to go, and he has these haunting words - the very last words he's ever
    recorded to have said - he says, "We're beggars, that's the truth." I think those

    were in fact cheerful words: we are beggars at the throne of grace, and we're
    beggars for mercy at the throne of a God who is deeply gracious. And he's ready to

    throw in the towel, call it quits, and beg for grace. And that's the truth.