Luther and First Principles

Due to some comments on Law, Authority and the Role of Consent by Brandon Adams of the blog Contrast I looked into the writings of John Robbins & the Trinity Foundation.  The first article I read was called Christ and Civilization:

The article is long and interesting, going over a lot of Christian History with a just, and critical eye.  Talking about the mess that we made during the later Roman years, the Medieval Mess (as Robbins aptly called it), up to the Reformation.  The Reformation being, as stated in this article, one of the turning points of the West and Christianity.  Christianity had finally been re-decentralized after such a long period of centralization.  The old barriers were being torn down and people were able to realize an individual relationship with Christ instead of with Christ through the “church leaders”.  A definite thing to rejoice in.

That short review aside, I did find one short quote worth repeating on this blog which is a collection of Martin Luther quotes about “first principles” and “axioms”.  If you’ve read much of this blog you’ll be acquainted with my fondness for foundational principles and axioms.

[The Reformation] rested on the Holy Scriptures, that is, the written revelation of God. The Bible alone is the noncontradictory revelation of God, and God has put all his revelation in writing. Luther so emphasized this idea that it became known as the Schriftprinzip: the writing principle. Here are some of Luther’s statements of this fundamental principle, which he calls an “axiom” and a “first principle”:

“We intend to glory in nothing but Holy Scripture, and we are certain that the Holy Spirit cannot oppose and contradict himself.”

“I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant.  All other writings I so read that, however learned or holy they may be, I do not hold what they teach to be true unless they prove by Scripture or reason that it must be so.”

“Putting aside all human writings, we should spend all the more and all the more persistent labor on Holy Scriptures alone…. Or tell me, if you can, who is the final judge when statements of the fathers contradict themselves? In this event the judgment of Scripture must decide the issue, which cannot be done if we do not give Scripture the first place…so that it [the Bible] is in itself the
most certain, most easily understood, most plain, is its own interpreter, approving, judging, and illuminating all the statements of all men…. Therefore nothing except the divine words are to be the first principles for Christians; all human words are conclusions drawn from them and must be brought back to them and approved by them.”

This quote in particular: “I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant.  All other writings I so read that, however learned or holy they may be, I do not hold what they teach to be true unless they prove by Scripture or reason that it must be so.”  Is pertinent to Christian’s as the world today is so technologically advanced that you can’t test the validity of “science” using the scriptures alone.  Instead, some of those theories need to be judged using reason; and reason needs to be based on the world as God created it.  At which point, then you can bring it back to the Scriptures as the Scriptures reveal many things about the world, its inhabitants and the way God formed it to work.  Economics (of the Austrian variant) use as a foundational axiom a form of this statement “Humans act with purpose”.  While that isn’t blatantly scriptural, it isn’t anti-biblical. Reading of the scriptures leads us to believe that God formed man to act in the world and that he gave us distinct purposes from which to act.

I do believe that God revealed all that is necessary in His scripture for human growth and salvation.  There isn’t everything that we’d like, but it has what is needed.  As Luther put it, we need to bring things back to the Scripture to find it’s worth.  Another example is a different variant of Economics, Keynesian Economics.  Much of that school is based on debt = success as opposed to hard work and saving = success.  Take that back to Scripture and it is pretty obviously should cast some doubt on Keynes’ work.  The Bible teaches that debt is slavery, and that we are to work hard in this world for everyone’s gain.

“Scripture itself…alone is the fount of all wisdom.”


4 thoughts on “Luther and First Principles

  1. Hey John, glad you’re finding some helpful things at TF. I think you’ll enjoy Robbins lectures on economics. He discusses Mises’ axiom and how it relates to the Christian axiom.

  2. Pingback: On Principles and Compromise « The Economical Engineer

  3. Pingback: Electoral Medley & Introduction to Non-Voting « The Economical Engineer

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