Martin Luther on Reason and an Unreasonable Grace

Our flesh, despite its creation by God, does not find itself naturally pure but filled with impure desires. Our heart, despite its creation by God, does not find itself naturally humble or filled with the passion to love our neighbors. We find our hearts filled with pride and selfishness. Unless our flesh or our hearts are forcibly restrained, they will act according to these naturally tainted inclinations.

People of reason are similar. Through reason, these people know that we should only do good. Sadly, reason is so perverted that through it we cannot decipher what is good. Reason calls whatever is pleasing to itself good. It then takes its good to an extreme and concludes that we should only do that which it has defined as good. The end result is that through reason we find ourselves pursuing evil rather than good.

Through reason, we know that we should be pious and serve God. People of reason know how to talk the talk when it comes to piety and service. And through their reasoning, they think they can show the whole world how they should be pious and serve God. But in the end, these people cannot, through reason, show us how we should be pious and in what ways we are to serve God. Of true piety and service, these people know nothing. They are almost blind, if not completely blind. They say we must fast, pray, sing, and do the works of the law. People of reason continue to act the fool with works untl it has gone so far astray as to imagine that people are serving God in building churches, ringing bells, burning incense, whining, singing, wearing hoods, shaving their heads, burning candles, and other innumerable trivial acts. We continue to clutter our lives with acts that we consider worship and service to God. In this clutter we continue to wallow while the bright light of Truth that would free us from this vicious cycle or reason remains shining for all that are willing to seek it.

Jesus, the light of grace, came and taught us to be pious and serve God. In doing this, he was not focused on extinguishing reason but opposed to the way and manner that people of reason teach us how we are to become pious and serve God. He said, "To become pious is not to do works. No works are good without faith."

Then begins the fight. People of reason rise up against grace and cry out against the teaching of Jesus. Although they will not claim they are against Jesus, they accuse his teachings of forbidding good works. These people claim to have the right way of becoming pious and continually argue that we need to be pious and serve God only in their way. Through their teachings, they attempt to make the teachings of Jesus foolishness. They relegate His teaching of grace to the realm of error and heresy. The person of reason believes the teaching of grace needs to be persecuted and banished. This is as far as a person of reason can go. He will find himself raving against the teachings of Jesus while constantly boasting of his piety and good works. People of reason will not be taught what piety is and what good works really are. People of reason insist that what they think and propose are right and good.

In teaching and living to what is reasonable, we have the cause and origin of all idolatry, of all heresy, of all hypocrisy, and of all error that the prophets of old have spoken about and the Scriptures protest. Many of the prophets were even killed for speaking out against people of reason.

All this comes from the stubborn, self-willed arrogance and delusion that people of natural reason find themselves in. They are self-confident and puffed up because they know that we ought to be pious and serve God. They will not listen to or suffer a teacher to teach them. They think they know enough and would find out for themselves what it means to be pious and serve God. They will reason for themselves how they should be pious and serve God.

Divine truth cannot and must not ever submit to reason or the thoughts of the people of reason. This would be the greatest mistake and be contrary to God's honor and glory. Through conceding to people of reason, contentions and tribulations arise.


An excerpt in modern language from Martin Luther's Third Christmas Sermon preached in 1521.

Sadly, I find myself to be more of a person of reason. May I be able to change.

Watch out for the potholes.