Luther – The Original Cussing Pastor image

Luther – The Original Cussing Pastor

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Many of us have enjoyed and been inspired by the ministry of Mark Driscoll. He is a phenomenal preacher and visionary leader. Driscoll himself is self-consciously Calvinistic/Reformed in his theology, yet in many ways he is more reminiscent of Luther than his Genevan counterpart. Like Luther, Driscoll can be pretty polemical and iconoclastic at times. Like Luther, Driscoll has done much to reconstruct evangelical views of sex in its appropriate context in a more positive light (see my next blog). In his early years in ministry, Driscoll became known as the “cussing pastor”. His frank “I’ll call a spade a spade” approach combined with his blue collar background meant that his Mars Hill congregations heard words and phrases that were not normally associated with pulpit ministry. Here again, there are strong parallels with and similarities to Luther. Luther was the original cussing pastor.

Luther, like Driscoll, came from humble stock. His father was originally a copper miner who then went on to become a peasant farmer. Luther’s earthy and sometimes downright crude language has often been ignored because it is embarrassing or misinterpreted as merely a product of his background. Strange though it may seem to our ears, however, Luther did not swear because of his low social status but because he saw foul language as a weapon in his armoury against the Devil (maybe I missed something in Ephesians 6!) For Luther, the best way to combat the very real threat the Devil poses is through the weapon of scorn:

“But if that is not enough for you, you Devil, I have also sh** and pi**ed; wipe your mouth on that and take a hearty bite.

I will give a fart for a staff. You, Satan, Antichrist, or pope can lean on it, a stinking nothing”

 
Because the Devil drags God’s name and His works through the mud, Luther’s retort to the Devil’s dung is “You go eat it!”
 
Oberman is clear, Luther’s lifelong barrage of crude words hurled at opponents of the Gospel is robbed of significance if it is attributed to bad breeding. Luther, like us, is engaged in a battle with a foe who is a slanderer and accuser of the people of God (Revelation 12:10). This being the case, Luther genuinely believed that one of the best ways of combatting his slander was to go on the attack with the same weapon.
 
Slander is not likely to be one of the most prevalent weapons in our spiritual armoury. Indeed, we do well to remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:4, “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk”, but we do well also to learn from Luther of the reality and ferocity of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. We may not throw inkpots at the Devil as Luther is reputed to have done in 1521 when he was plagued with doubt following his imprisonment for his own safety and protection by Duke Frederick the Wise, nor should we swear at him as Luther did. But let’s be those who, like Luther, take Paul’s exhortation seriously:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil.

 
For more on this see HA Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil (1989) chapter 3 “An Elemental Event”

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