Thursday, December 23, 2004 +

D2D 01 — The West Torn Apart

From Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, “The West Torn Apart”:

Now [1517] 34 years old, [Luther] was not a young hothead. For seven years he had lived in anguish, often in despair, about the state of his soul. He had fought the urgings of the flesh—not only desire but also hatred and envy—and he had always lost the battle. How could he hope to be save? Then one day, when a brother monk was reciting the Creed, the words “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” struck him as a revelation. “I felt as if I were born anew.” Faith had suddenly descended into him without his doing anything to deserve it. His divided self or “sick soul,” as William James called the typical state, was mysteriously healed. The mystery was God’s bestowal of grace. Lacking it, the sinner cannot have faith and walk in the path of salvation. Such is the substance not merely of the Protestant idea, but of the Protestant experience.