Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Who wrote this? Answered

I have found these two statements very interesting and helpful to my faith. To be honest, one statement I believe is in error. The term "inner witness" means the same thing as your feelings. I am not the first to compare these two statements. I know of at least two authors who use these statements to illustrate opposite approaches to the role of our feelings in faith matters. Who wrote each?

A. "Friends, this evening I have felt the internal witness of the Spirit. On his deathbed my father told me this must happen (""The inward witness, son, the inward witness, that is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity."") And by God's grace it has happened inside me this very evening." John Wesley

B. "We must not judge by what we feel or by what we see before us. The Word must be followed, and we must firmly hold that these truths are to be believed, not experienced; for to believe is not to experience. Not indeed that what we believe is never to be experienced, but that faith is to precede experience. And the Word must be believed even when we feel and experience what differs entirely from the Word. Martin Luther


John H said...

As with Dan's similar quiz, I cheated by googling key phrases from each quote.

To be honest part of me has more sympathy with "JW" (I had in fact already guessed it was him in that case) than with "DM", even if "JW" is less careful in how he expresses what he's saying. "DM" sounds more like a Baptist here than a ... well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

I don't think we should accept a dichotomy between the Word and "experience". Yes, the Word comes first, but as with faith and works, while it is vital that we make a conceptual distinction between the two, they should never in fact be separated in any human life.

I think that's part of the point of the sacraments: they are the Word experienced. If we are baptised as infants, we experience the Word long before we understand it.

Jason said...

I love that quote from Luther! Where did it come from?

John H said...

Oops. Google let me down for once. (*^_^*)

But I still stand by what I said in my earlier comment: while the Word comes first, we shouldn't make a false dichotomy between the Word and experience, and the sacraments are one particular area where this is demonstrated very clearly - and I think the blessed Herr Doktor Luther would agree. ;-)

David said...

I think I see what you're saying John, but I would consider the sacraments the very antithesis of the "internal witness of the Spirit," which Wesley is speaking about. We do experience them, but they are the Gospel coming to us from outside of us--not the "internal" experience of Wesley.

The beauty of the Lord's Supper is that I experience it even when I am feeling lousy, bored, or cranky. And the forgiveness is real, and there for the receiving, despite my feelings.

TKls2myhrt said...

John, I hope you can elaborate on your comments. I find that I am over-reactive to examples of what I see as reliance on feelings to validate faith. This quote from Luther really "spoke" to the deficient area of my faith a couple of years ago. I had come across many people who identify with my experience, but you seem to be coming to confessional Lutheranism from another avenue. I don't want my perceptions to only be based on my own experiences, so I'd love to hear from other confessional Lutherans who think differently.

TKls2myhrt said...


I found the Luther quote and the Wesley quote in the book, What's Going on Among the Lutherans", in the chapter "The Reformed Approach to Scripture". The Wesley quote is widely available on the internet and the Luther quote is from his sermon on I Cor. 5:1ff on 3-31-1519 and cited in several other books, including Sanctification (Senkbeil) and The Quest for Holiness (Koeberle).

TKls2myhrt said...


You and I come to Lutheranism from the same perspective, regarding faith and feelings. Good example of the sacraments as the opposite of faith by feelings.