Saturday, September 29, 2007

Luther on Lebensraum

We conclude, therefore, a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbour through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbour. Yet he always remains in God and in his love.

- Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

According to Luther, our problem is that we are curved in upon ourselves, trapped in self (incurvatus in se). Freedom is then to live not in myself, but in Christ and my neighbour. As a Christian, I am no longer the source of my own life, the provider of my own needs. I am delightfully dependent. My goals are no longer for myself, but for God and the common good. I can now live expansively, having been brought into the wide space of God's mercy: He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping (Job 36.16). Living in Christ and the neighbour: this is where we can find Lebensraum.
Eight points for picking the country.


Anonymous said...

"I am delightfully dependent"

Awesome. A wonderful antithesis to the goal of the modern Westerner; Independence.

Can you imagine any adult being praised for saying "I am delightfully dependent"?

byron smith said...

Yes - of course, there is a bad kind of dependence (co-dependence), but I was being polemical against individualism (or trying to draw out Luther's implicit polemic - ironic that he is often accused of also being one of the intellectual sources of Western individualism).

Jonathan said...

Maybe more emphasis on delightful dependence would help even the bad forms of dependence? This post draws together different things in an interesting way, and I particularly like the picture of the wide space of God's mercy. As for the other picture, is it Scotland?

byron smith said...

Jonathan - yes, Jürgen Moltmann makes a lot of use of the metaphor of 'wide space' (and I should credit him with using the concept of Lebensraum in this regard - a creative Christian reappropriation of Hitler's imperialism). And yes, it is Scotland - the day I took that photo was a very beautiful day driving through the north of Scotland. Eight points.