R.C. Sproul and Luther

Stephen Nichols (SN): Welcome back to 5 Minutes in Church History. We are soon at October 31 and I have a very special guest today. Hello, Dr. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul (RC): Hello, Steve; how are you?

SN: Dr. Sproul, I need to tell you that I am calling you from a rather important place. I am standing right next to the church doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

RC: Yes, I know that place; I’ve been there before. More than once. And I am really
envious that you have the opportunity to be there now.

SN: I wish you could be here, too. This is the place where Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses. Now, I know that you’ve been in Wittenberg on a few occasions. Could you just tell us two or three of your favorite places in this town?

RC: One of my favorite places in that town, believe it or not, is a ratskeller. We went there to have lunch, and when we were there that day they had a little umpapa band in front of the ratskeller and they had a big tuba. On the bell of the tuba were inscribed in German, “Every time a guilder in the coffer rang, a soul from purgatory sprang.” I got a big kick out of that, that even to this day they would remember the words of Johann Tetzel. It’s so hard to say what my favorite place was. Being at the Luther house—there is a door and on one side there was Katie’s chair, and on the other side there was Luther’s chair, and Vesta and I got our picture taken while seated in those two chairs. Going into the church and the pulpit and all of those things, it’s just magnificent. And the museum—and I think you know that I have a perfect replica of Luther’s wedding ring that Katie von Bora designed, and the original is in the museum, and I have this one that I wear all the time. It’s one of my prized gifts that my wife gave me.

SN: Dr. Sproul, this is an important place and it’s an important year—2017. As you think about Luther’s legacy over five hundred years, what strikes you as most significant?

RC: I think the most significant thing is the recovery of the gospel and the motto Post tenebras lux—after darkness, light. And the legacy that Luther himself considered was the necessity that that gospel be recovered in every generation down to the present. And it is. In every generation, there’s been a crisis at some point over the purity of the gospel.

SN: Do you have a favorite book from the pen of Martin Luther, Dr. Sproul?

RC: There are several that I love deeply. Of course, The Bondage of the Will is a classic and I love that. But it’s pretty hard to exceed Table Talk, and it’s a pleasure to read the recorded conversational vignettes that came from Luther; they’re so candid and so rich and so insightful. But still, I prefer The Bondage of the Will above all.

SN: Why do you think Luther wrote hymns?

RC: Because he was a very astute theologian. Luther explained why he wrote hymns: because he believed that, second only to the Scripture, music has the capacity to raise and elevate the soul to the highest form of praise and adoration of God. And so, Luther was a musician, and it was a natural relationship for him to tie theology and biblical studies to the composition of music.

SN: Dr. Sproul, thank you for joining me from a distance.

RC: You’re more than welcome, Steve. It’s been a delight for me to spend time with you and reminiscing and anticipating.

SN: That was Dr. R.C. Sproul and we are here in Wittenberg.

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