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date: 29 April 2017

Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Creation

Summary and Keywords

Martin Luther’s doctrine of creation can be identified as the center of his theology. The justification for this judgement is threefold. First, the centrality of creation to Luther’s theology is rooted in Luther’s expansive interpretation of the act of creation. Luther’s theology of creation is neither limited to a description of what happened “in the beginning” nor restricted to some initial and selective point of life. Instead, Luther understands creation as the principal and permanent feature of God’s action and communication, something happening constantly and taking place in a threefold way: by creation, preservation, and re-creation. In addition to this Martin Luther’s doctrine of creation is a strong antidote against any present Deism or present Gnosticism. Second, creation may be seen as central to Luther’s theology because it describes God’s sovereignty and is directly linked to it. For Luther, God’s action is always sola gratia, always a creatio ex nihilo. This does not mean that Luther ignores or denies the vast creational involvement in creatural matters, for instance, in the emergence of new life. Instead, his intention is to emphasize God’s almightiness: God acts purely out of freedom and love and not because of any obligation. When God creates, he needs no available material substance, when God justifies, he needs no preliminary human work. Of course, God may use them but he does not need them. In principle, God’s actions are all initial and initiating beginnings. Therefore, creation, preservation, and re-creation happen “without any of my merit and worthiness.” Every calculating do ut des—I give to you so that you give to me—comes to an end here. All creatural and theological creation, preservation, and re-creation is not earned by one’s own virtue but given sola gratia. Third, the doctrine of creation is central because Luther develops out of it the basis of his ethical thinking. God’s already described creational activity puts all humankind into place and determines their role in creation. Luther understands the human’s response to God’s gift to lie in the gratitude of the creature toward the creator, and not in the critique of the creator or in a tempting or attempting “improvement” of the gift through an effort of self-creation. As creature, one is called to shape the given world, but more so to receive one’s own personal destiny with gratitude. For Luther, this thankfulness also means embracing, or at least accepting, one’s own creation as a destiny that is determined, individual, and in many respects unalterable. In addition to this personal perspective of gratitude, God’s verbal and communicative means of creation in dialogue with his creature is for Luther a basic feature of his ethics as well. Luther generalizes this creational dialogical structure and uses it in the ethical field not only to characterize the relationship between creator and creature but also to characterize the relationships among the creatures themselves.

Keywords: Martin Luther, creation, world, communication, preservation, Deism, creatio ex nihilo, sola gratia, re-creation, Gnosticism


Creation and Individuality

“I Believe That God Has Created Me”—Luther’s Focus against Generalizations

The starting point and core of Luther’s theology of creation can be found in his famous explanation of the first article in the “Small Catechism.” Speaking about creation, naturally, the immediate world surrounding oneself comes first into view. Therefore, Luther’s reflection on creation begins with the creation of himself:

I believe that God has created me together with all creatures, has given me body and soul, eyes, ears, and all body parts, reason and all senses and still preserves [them]; in addition, clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and child, fields, cattle and all goods, provides me richly and daily with all necessities and sustenance for this body and life, protects me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil—and all that purely because of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any of my merit and worthiness.1

This key phrase says that God’s creation is no collective, abstract, or technical occurrence, but something profoundly personal: every single human being owes his whole life and individuality solely to God and may praise him as his own, personal creator. With this main premise, Luther regards himself as a part of creation taking place in Genesis 1. In his great lecture on the book on Genesis from 1535 to 1545, Luther writes:

If you look at my person, I am something new, because sixty years ago I was nothing. Such is the judgment of the world. But God’s judgment is different; for in God’s sight I was begotten and multiplied immediately when the world began, because God’s word “Let Us make man” created me too. Whatever God wanted to create, He created then when He spoke … God, through His Word, extends His activity from the beginning of the world to its end.2

In his still excellent monograph on the topic, David Löfgren can thus summarize the matter: “Luther’s theology of creation does not begin with the representation of the creator, but with the concretely created.”3 Indeed, with the concretely created instance of my own person and world. The relevance of the creator is grounded in the relevance of this creator to me. No matter how little one is compared to all of creation, one is not depreciated by God.

Luther wants to prevent the submersion of the individual in the entire context of creation: as a creature the individual stands alone before God, is personally addressed by God, and must also give a personal answer to this same God. Relationships are always individual and personal.

For Luther, the general cosmological genesis, as well as the general genesis of various creatures, are ultimately of secondary importance. Instead, the starting point and center of his doctrine of creation is the creation of himself as a creature, which is a person in his own right. Likewise, his personal environment is the effective sphere of divine creativity.4 Therefore, one must first grasp the personal existence of creation before the global aspect of the created world can come into view.

“Together with All Creatures”—Luther’s Focus on the Mediation and Giftedness of Life

Although Luther takes his own person as the point of departure for his doctrine of creation, this personality and individuality does not stand by itself nor does it originate from an isolated dialogue with God: human life—indeed, life as such—is nonetheless bound up in the greater context of creation and Luther does not conceal the individual’s responsibility for the greater household of creation.

The fact that God “has created me” cannot be divorced from the “together with all creatures.” Perceiving creation begins with an awareness of one’s own limits and everyday dependence on God’s giving. Luther therefore condemns a false proudness coming out of this special human position toward the rest of creatures.5 Instead, one must give serious consideration to the environment in which we live: to one’s fellow humans, animals, and plants.

In light of emphasizing his own personality, man should not fall into a self-fascination. He should not be besotted with his own abilities and superiority over the world and therefore distance himself from his co-creatures. Any individuality is received individuality and especially one’s own need for help must stay in focus. What we are, we are not by ourselves, but by others.

The reason for Luther’s attention toward other creatures is that God’s action as creator can only be perceived through the mediation of creatures. We know God’s life-giving and life-promising gift in no other way but primarily through the actions and attentions of our own parents, to whom we were born. Luther’s high regard for marriage as a “nursery,”6 as well as a “fountain,”7 of all estates is founded precisely in this life-giving and life-preserving communication between man and woman, parents and child, God and man. God speaks and creates not in the abstract but binds his activity to creaturely events.

The beginning of human life is mediated, that is to say, it is bound to procreation through one’s parents and to birth itself through one’s mother. This beginning is determined equally by both the sovereign action of the creator, in which a human being is miraculously presented with life, and utterly human sexual activity. Human creation is grounded in the harmony of divine and human action: on the one hand, in the encounter of God and man, creator and creature; on the other hand, in the encounter of man and woman. Both, the divine act of creation and the human act of love, joined together, simultaneously mark the beginning of life.

Our existence was desired by others long before we ourselves desired it. Before a human being can say “I,” he or she is already addressed by the divine and human “you.”8 We were taken care of long before we could take care of ourselves. This care remains hidden from the infant, is given without being earned, makes life possible, and allows it to grow and learn. Observing creation, we see unconditional giving. Already in earliest childhood, human existence is a received one: Conceived by certain parents, born into a certain family, a certain surrounding. This determines, who I “am.”

My individuality is not just acquired—otherwise it could easily be removed. Instead, it is fatefully bound to my familial, sanitary, venereal, and bodily existence. No human being is the absolute beginning, even if I am called to shape my own life individually. Everybody lives with inalterable conditions. Despite all human feeling of autonomy, the questions of St. Paul remain (1 Cor. 4:7): What have you—and also: what are you—that has not been given to you?”

Perceiving creation begins with an awareness of one’s everyday dependence on God’s giving. Directly linked with this insight are other creatures around us as well as the environment in which we live.

The Struggle for Binding the Two Together

Although it is clear that Luther’s emphasis “together with all creatures” is no redundant addition to the first half of the sentence, it nevertheless often needed to struggle for its recognition. The personal aspects of Protestant faith always had greater priority than the collaborative, and the social mandate of Christianity was quite often questioned.

Attendant on Luther, it is popular to emphasize “Here I stand”—but the sociological and ecclesiastical question remains: Where do “we” stand? This question is especially painful in 2017 and its celebration of 500 years of Protestantism, looking at its countless inner Protestant battles and separations, whereas the Catholic Church still remains a worldwide more or less unified church.

Luther’s creational starting point at the individual was pointed against the ecclesiastical collectivism of the Catholic Church, but it nevertheless suited the Renaissance, where man discovered himself as an individual. As our own times are similar, this sensational aspect of Luther’s theological starting-point is no longer obvious, because Luther’s emphasis on the individual seems compatible with the modern transformation of the world according to anthropological standards.

This individual perspective increases even more with the modern emphasis on feelings: while it is possible to discuss intellectual arguments and evaluate them logically, feelings are utmost individual and because of their personal character unchallengeable by others. The emotionalized subjective individual is the center of his own system, and especially the Romantic Period is the foundation of the modern experience-oriented individuality, which sets its own feelings and consciousness as absolute.

These anthropologic-individual exaggerations are not in accord with Luther’s original intention. It is important to see, although Luther takes his own person as the point of departure for his doctrine of creation, this individuality nevertheless does not stand by itself. Human life—indeed, life as such—is bound up in the greater context of creation, and Luther does not conceal the individual’s responsibility for the greater household of creation.

Creation and Time

“In Principium” instead of “in Initium” (Gen 1:1)—Primordial History as Present History

As Luther sees himself in his individuality as created, addressed, and desired by God, the history of creation can be nothing else than present history. For Luther, creation is not something past, but something present; he therefore interprets primordial history as a history of the present. Consequently, God’s creative activity is also not bound to particular periods of life. In God’s eyes, “everything past and everything future is present.”9

Luther is reluctant to interpret primordial biblical history merely as the beginning of things, as the “initium,” but rather insists that its meaning be understood in terms of a “principium.”10 The Vulgate as well translates “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1) with “in principio,” not with “in initio.” While “initium” means a beginning, which, once started, stays in the past and has no further influence, the word “principium” speaks of a beginning, which stays relevant for what it initiated.

Luther does not allow himself to be distanced from God’s creative work by any isolated, past original history, by any “beginning of things,” but instead sees himself placed in the most radical fashion in the creative event of primordial history, which he interprets as a history of the present.

Luther’s personal and present environment is the effective sphere of divine creativity. It is not Adam who is ultimately relevant here, but Luther. Nevertheless, Luther was firmly convinced of the historicity of Adam and Eve.11

For Luther, in an interlacing of times, past, present, and future come together in a single moment: “By his word God runs from the beginning of the world to its end.”12 God’s living creative word pervades time, is “without end,”13 speaks “without borders nor boundaries,”14 is “not dead”15 but “still strong,”16 acts “today,”17 and remains ever “effective” to this very moment, is verbum efficax.18

As little as God’s entity ceases, so little does his speaking end, by which creation begun. He speaks unceasingly and still continues his relationship with creation, because no creature is able to exist out of its own strength. Therefore, as long as one creature exists, so long will God’s word go; as long this planet sustains or is able to sustain, so long will God speak unceasingly.19

God stays with his creation, acts in her, lets incessantly new human beings and animals be born, grants permanently new beginnings and by doing so preserves creation.20

The Danger of Underestimating the “Initium”

Luther’s emphasis of the “principium” has hamartiological consequences because with the emphasis on the present the question arises of whether the hamartiological keystone, the Fall, should consequently move into the present as well. Especially the contemporary focus on the personal responsibility of every human being for his or her own iniquity leads to the suggestion that the Fall is a present and existential happening, which everyone experiences on his or her own, whereas a sinless initial Paradise and a historic Adamitic Fall are mostly declined. The sole attention is on the present.

As much as Luther emphasizes the theological importance of the present in respect to creation and Fall, he nevertheless does not replace the past with the present. Instead, he keeps a double perspective, which is presently rather unpopular. Except for young-earth creationists a historic Adam plays no role, due to the familiar scientific reasons.

Nevertheless, despite the academic justifications for the theory of evolution, there remains a pivotal theological problem: Where and when is the original state? If we speak of an individual Fall, then there must also be an individual phase of hamartiological innocence, otherwise it would make no sense to speak of a “Fall.” But such an innocent individual phase in life, no matter how short it is, is contrary to basic Protestant belief. Every human is a sinner from the very first moment of life, even prenatal. Even the very best have no inculpable era.

And it is not only the original state which causes difficulties here. From a theological perspective, death is not just a neutral biological occurrence, which takes place because the bodily strength comes to an end. Instead, death and sin are inseparably bound together. This means, that even if one defines the Fall as an occurrence within human consciousness at some point within history, the question remains: What role did death play before this incident?

Additionally, Luther himself would probably point out that also the Adam-Christ parallelism of Romans 5, if it wants to be a true parallelism, demands a historic “Adam,” as the character and occurrence of the justification of the sinner is directly parallelized with the character and occurrence of the Fall.

Luther’s holding on to a historic Paradise, a historic Adam and historic Fall may seem odd for contemporary science-oriented Christians, but for Luther all three are necessary because of theological reasons. The creatio prima or creatio originans must not be dissolved into the creatio continua.

Creation and Space

Luther can depict the creation of the world as the building of a house, in which God is both the architect and master builder, who constructs it by means of his creative word, furnishes it as a suitable living space, and finally places it at the disposal of human landlords.

The world, the “elegant domicile”21 of man, is exquisitely furnished: the roof is heaven, the foundation is the earth, and the walls are the oceans. This “shell” is then painted, adorned, and filled by God. The kitchen and the cellar are equipped with plants, which human beings can eat for nutrition.22 Once the “great and glorious house”23 is finally ready to move in, human beings are permitted and even ordered to enjoy [frui!]24 its goods. For Luther, it is, moreover, a specific sign of God’s goodness as creator that he cares first for the house and the dwelling of human beings before furnishing his own dwelling—namely heaven.25 This providential care of God, with which he protects human beings and gives them what they need during their earthly existence, is entirely directed toward human beings and remains—in an entirely unspectacular way—continually bound to creaturely mediation.

Luther’s use of the image of the building of a house may lead to misinterpretations: for one, the image of God as the master builder should not be misconstrued to the deistic point that, after finishing his work, God himself leaves it to its own devices because it can now exist independently without the influence and maintenance of its constructor.26

But he [God] is not a foreman, who behaves like a carpenter or builder, who, after he has constructed and built a house, ship or something else, forwards it to his future master to live in it or to use it as he wishes … Just as craftsmen do, when they have finished their work; they depart and ask no longer, what happens with their finished work. God does not behave in such a way, but instead, begins his creation with his word, continuously preserves his work with his word and remains with what he created, until it comes to an end.27

For Luther, God remains the “father of the house”28 and “landlord”29 of the world because God himself wants to live in the house of the world as well together with his creatures. God stays with his creation, wraps himself entirely into it, and is grasped in a creaturely way.30 God’s presence is necessary because it would be hubris of the creature to think that after God’s departure it now alone has the ability as well as responsibility to preserve and maintain creation. Instead, even if creation with all its mathematical, physical, and biological laws appears to exist independently from its creator, it is still dependent on him.31

Likewise, the gift of the world as a house should not be misconstrued to mean that the habitation of the world is a permanent one; it is rather an inn, a temporary lodging.32 Luther consistently emphasizes that the true home of human beings is heaven and that the world, as something prepared by God for human beings, does not possess any enduring character.

And a third possible misconception: in spite of the multiple images of God as a skilled master builder, for Luther, the creation of the world is no mechanical process,33 but something profoundly organic; birth and growth, procreation and life are the decisive terms here—not production, but bestowal.

Creation as Communication

God Is Author and Poet of This World and We Are His Vocabulary

By creating this world with his word, God is, for Luther, the “author”34 of this world; he is a “poet,” and we, his creation, are his “poems,” his “opus.”35

The sun and the moon, heaven and earth, Peter, Paul, I and you etc.—we all are God’s vocabulary.36

God does not use normal vocabulary37 but has a “divine grammar.”38 God’s words are “omnipotent”39 because they do what they say. God ejects a whole world by a single word,40 and without this word, there would be nothing.41

Interestingly, for Luther, the devil is also an “author” of this world, as he tries to copy God wherever possible,42 but the “word” of the devil is money—so that the divine verbal exchange turns here into a devilish money exchange.43

For Luther, creation is communication. And a disturbance of communication is a disturbance of creation. The ethical implications and consequences of this precept are obvious.

God Is “Dictor,” Not a Dictator—Creation as a Dialogue between Creator and Creature

The creation and development of human life is not a technical-mechanical production but bound to God’s word. Creation is embedded in an organic dialogue in which the word of the creator, as well as the answer of the creature, and even the protest of the creature all have their place. God is “dictor,”44 but no dictator. This organic communication (cf. Ps. 19:2) is not determined by fixed laws but remains in its dialogical character something living, sensual, and even resistant.

The encounter and union of two different parties in a creative act is constitutive for human life. Human life owes itself to a fundamental communicative event, which marks the beginning of human life—indeed, of any life whatsoever—and makes it possible in the first place. The constituent duality is thereby not cancelled out, however, but remains an integral part of the creative union.

Creation must be understood as a communicative act in two respects: for Luther, the communicative basic axiom is already present in God’s call to himself: “Let us make man,” and in his performative word “let there be light.” Creation is not effected monologically but dialogically.

For the modern scientist, this communicative basic axiom of the creation event is realized in and through the genetic exchange of information which forms the necessary presupposition for the fusion of two cells. This exchange of information is a communicative event which is indispensable for the natural reproduction of life.

No one can reproduce all by himself. In this way, God’s demand “be fruitful and multiply” is fulfilled in terms of a communicative, information-exchanging act of creation. This creative communication, moreover, will turn out to be characterized by freedom. That is to say: the partner is not subjected to one’s own dictatorship but retains his own right.

God’s creative word grants man freedom and even respects man’s opposition. It listens to man’s response, which is precisely no mere echo to God’s own word. God addresses man in a creative and dialogical manner. Humans, instead, are in danger of opting for the monologue.

The Ethical Danger of Narcissus and Echo

For Luther, God’s way of creating corrects the human desire to only accept what is similar to our own being and to decline the life of those, who do not fit into our own biological, social, and economic standards.

In view of social ethics in general and bioethics in particular, the ancient story of Narcissus and Echo is a heuristic symbol of our times. By opting for monologue, Narcissus refuses to encounter the other. His communication submits to a will that focuses exclusively on its own reflection.

This ancient warning against self-reflective self-absorption and a monological existence has been confirmed in a surprisingly literal way: yes, we will soon be able to clone man’s reflection of himself. After all, everything alien, new, or different presents an initial irritation and feeds the desire to restrict oneself to the known. We flirt with the comfortable resonance of what is our own with what our echo repeats to us.

Instead, man must remain communicative and not become stingy and self-referential. Whoever fails to serve the other, centering about nothing but himself, will die, along with his possessions—as incurvatio in seipsum.45

If man’s dignity, as built in the image of God, ceases to be based in God’s address to man which extends without exception to all humans and awards them a principal authorization to live, other criteria will gain prevalence. Contingent preferences then lead to a selective communication that affects especially the beginning and end of life. As a consequence, the life and the space of human action linked with it, which God has unconditionally granted to man, can then no longer be recognized as a gift. Both, life and life-space are then perceived as a possession which must be defended, refused, or distributed in view of expected utilities. The passing on of the life one has received, and of the opportunities for its development then no longer happen unconditionally, but conditionally.

The Christian teaching about creation has to listen to Luther and resist any attempt to let merely human sympathies or personal preferences govern the way in which God’s gift of participation in his pro-creative work is received. God’s address to man, and his award of life to man, happened, in Luther’s words, irrespective of any “merit and worthiness.”46 Accordingly, for example, no handicap or dementia may compromise our readiness to address all humans as humans, and do so in the name of any supposed fullness of rational personhood. Man’s inviolable dignity must be recognized in all. It cannot be acquired, and it therefore cannot be lost. It has been awarded by God and it therefore cannot be deprived by us. It is as it were, a charakter indelebilis.

Yet our time is deeply framed by a debate concerning access and its limits—in every respect. Ultimately, such considerations amount to a refusal, or even a reglement, of communication. As a precaution against anything foreign, new, other, the borders of countries impose limitations of access. Whoever wants to enter, or live with us, must fulfill certain criteria: he must fit with existing work requirements, must speak our language, and must endorse our values and basic laws. Surely all such conditions are reasonable. But they reveal their ominous ambiguity once we realize that the same criteria’s also hold for the beginning and end of human life.

The borders of countries and the borders of life are here similar. Only those are admitted into life, and thus are literally allowed to come into the world, who will fit with existing work requirements and who can be classified as rational beings. And woe to any handicapped person who manages to be born despite the existing obstacles and admission controls designed to hinder his or her entrance. Parents of handicapped children can tell a story about the daily aggression they encounter from their fellow citizens, simply because they have opted for their child or because their child has managed to squeeze through the barbed wire fences of the preventive prenatal medical examinations and now wishes to claim his human right to life.


“For God Creating and Preserving Are One and the Same”—God’s Continuing Presence

For Luther, creation is never independent from God. Therefore, nothing can exist without God’s sustenance and preservation. Luther denies a deistic belief, as if God would leave his creation. Instead: this created world neither exists nor works like a wound-up clock, which is once set on its way and then left to its own devices. For Luther, creation remains vitally dependent on its creator, as the creature itself has no self-sustaining power. Even the most simple biological or natural event, no matter how “automatic” and “natural” it appears, would not take place without God’s creative word, without his giving and sustaining.47 Admittedly, human cooperation in biological or other events is necessary, but this human cooperation is strictly bound to God’s work and his giving. This unconditional giving receives its meaning primarily in the present. God does not just create but also sustains and preserves his creation; this preservation is never suspended, even not in sin.

Luther denies the hubristic idea as if it now was the task of humans to solely take care of the creation. Even if creation seems to exist independently and seems to multiply itself without any supernatural help, for Luther creation stays dependent on God and cannot exist without his sustenance.

God remains with his creation, is effective in it, continually allows new animals and human beings to be born, continually grants new beginnings and in this way preserves creation.48 God’s conservatio, his sustaining of creation is, to Luther, a sign of his abiding goodness as the creator. God’s preservation is an infallible sign of his steady creational benevolence and is not separable from his initial creation. Luther can even identify both: “We Christians know that for God creation and conservation are the same.”49 One cannot be without the other; both are indivisibly bound to each other.50

The nearness of creatio prima or creatio originans and creatio continua becomes especially clear in his sermons on the book of Genesis in 1523:

And there are many great people like Augustinus, Hilarius etc. of the opinion, that the sky we see now with sun, moon and stars, and the earth with all the lively animals originated in one single moment. But we do not understand it such way.51

Or more precisely:

God almighty did not create this world with one heave-ho but took time in doing so just as he now creates a child.52

The Danger of Losing the Presence of the Creator—against Deism

Luther’s emphasis of the creation continua and his focus on the presence of God in this world is a popular feature of his theology. Nevertheless, it seems as if Luther’s understanding of God’s presence in this world holds aspects which presently are underestimated. While God’s presence is widely emphasized, it is surprising to observe, how strangely little happens in it and how little consequences it has.

Deism is currently more popular than it seems. This becomes visible at three focal points: (1) the question of the creature trying to influence the creator, namely petitionary prayer; (2) the question of the creator trying to influence his creation, namely miracles; and (3) the question of the creator trying to communicate with his creature, namely revelations.

The Danger of Losing Interaction between Creature and Creator in Denying Petitionary Prayer

The decisive element of communication between the creature and the creator is prayer. Petitionary prayer plays hereby a special role because here prayer is not mere self-affirmation or self-contemplation, but true communication between active-reactive counterparts. It is obvious, that this interaction has problematic aspects, simply because of the relationship between petitionary prayer and predestination; a representative of this rejection of petitionary prayer and any interaction between creature and creator would be Friedrich Schleiermacher.53 Nevertheless, the question remains: Is prayer really nothing more than asking to be able to accept one’s predestined fate?

Despite Luther’s emphasis on God’s sovereignty in De servo arbitrio, he nevertheless is of the opinion that God reacts to human prayers. For Luther, there is no question that the creature may wrestle with its creator like Abraham with God concerning the number of just people in Sodom (Gen. 18) and Jacob in his fight by night at Jabbok (Gen. 32).

Directly linked to questioning petitionary prayer is the reverse perspective: the influence of the creator on his creation. And as the main obstacle in petitionary prayer was God’s divine predestination, so is the main obstacle for God interfering miraculously in this world the apparent immutable laws of natural science, which rule this world.

The Danger of Losing Interaction between the Creator and Creature in Denying Miracles

The creator is sovereign Lord of creation—but which character does this sovereignty have? Where does it manifest itself within creation?

Since the period of Enlightenment, there has been an emphasis on the laws of nature, on physical regularity and orderliness of the universe, and a general skepticism toward any interference in these—even by God. The emphasis of the necessity of God’s enduring presence in his creation seems little more but a theological interpretation, but not a being truly involved in keeping creation running, which seems to exist entirely on its own by its scientific laws. God is not really active but seems to be a non-interfering observer. Especially under the influence of Isaac Newton’s worldview and David Hume’s “Essay on Miracles,” many were led to believe in the impossibility of miracles.

There even seems to be a theological skepticism toward a direct interference of God in nature. Of course, this perspective nevertheless knows the surprising turn of fate, the “miracle.” The difference is only, that this kind of “miracle” is not directly linked to a transcendental intervention. Instead, it is the fortunate coincidence, which operates here, the self-regulating forces, the good doctor, the coincidence of a delay, the luck to be at the right place at the right time. Nevertheless, nothing is won with this argumentation because if one further pursues this causal chain, then the question remains: Did this activation of self-regulating forces originate purely by causalities of natural science, or was it—even in the molecular range—something actively changed by God, what usually in this way would not have occurred?

For Luther, it was unquestionable that the creator actively intervenes in creation and occasionally suspends the causality of the natural laws. The majority of the traditional Christian apologetics dealing with the identity and meaning of Jesus Christ rests on the miracle stories of the New Testament, culminating in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The contemporary Christian beyond the common and popular devotion is more skeptical. He or she questions an interference of God into nature, which is as such identifiable as God’s interference. Instead, the worldly physical laws are here the generalities, which are also obeyed by God. This means, that God’s action in this world is from this perspective no longer concretely identifiable. God’s unalterable predestination hindering the efficacy of human petitionary prayer is here paralleled by the unalterable laws of nature hindering any miraculous interference from Gods side. It is obvious, that the laws of nature are not permanently suspended by God, but the question remains, if this happens at all. After all, a “miracle” is by definition not an everyday occurrence.

The Danger of Losing Communication between the Creator and Creature in Denying Revelation

Luther believes that the creator abidingly wants to speak with his creature. Yet, how does this happen? If God does not directly interfere in nature in any sort, then the historic weight of some of the biblical stories is questioned. This skepticism against miraculous stories consequently turns to the Bible itself. Thereby, the message of the creator toward his creation is questioned.

Instead, the creature now determines the criteria, after which such a dialogue between creator and creature might occur. Rudolf Bultmann has set here efficacious milestones in setting up certain criteria of conditions, which must be fulfilled, so that a sentence or a narrative of the New Testament may at all count as mandatory kerygma.54 Helmut Thielicke is skeptical against such prejudgement; for him such practice silences the transcendent, as the present consciousness determined by empiricism sets its frequencies as absolute.55

The Necessity of Preservation in the Sight of Evil

The necessity of God’s preservation of creation is not self-evident: Why does God’s work need special protection and sustenance? This points to the fact that creation is in danger, that there is evil. The world is God’s creation and at the same time God’s enemy; it cheats and is cheated; it is in danger and is a danger.56

Just as Luther’s reflections on creation begin with the creation of himself, sin as well is nothing collective, abstract, or technical, but something profoundly personal: It is I who have sinned (2 Sam. 12:7: “You are the man!”). Sin means not to trust God’s promises, but to ask: Did God really say this?57 It means to be narcissistically curved back in on oneself,58 cutting one’s ties with God, with life, and with others.

But to be sure: just as every creature cannot call itself into existence but is dependent on God’s will and action, every creature as well cannot move into the opposite direction and annihilate itself. Even suicide (cf. Jer. 20:9.14‒18; Job 3:3‒19) will not disband from God’s power and care. God remains the creator and sustainer of everyone: to comfort a despondent heart equates for Luther the resurrection of a corpse.59

This overall dependence of creation on the creator, of course, poses the question of whether God himself is also the source of evil. Here, Luther emphasizes that God is good, that the devil is not only the personification of evil but also its source;60 a decisive difference between both is that the devil cannot create.61

Despite sin, God stays the creator and sustainer. Although God is not the creator of the fallen creature, the fallen creature fully remains God’s creation.

The Realm of Preservation: The Three Estates of Church, Household, and State

For Luther, God’s preservation takes place in the three estates, hierarchies, or orders:62 the church, household, and state.63 They “are to be found in and remain in every kingdom, as far as the world extends, and will last until the world comes to an end.”64 Here, God and humans cooperate in various ways; humans, while cooperating, receive a share of God’s strength and power; nevertheless, God remains the only originator.

These three estates are the fundamental realms of life, in which God’s promise and word of creation organizes human life. Luther summarizes these estates in his interpretation of Genesis 2:16f.: In this text, we find:

the establishment [“institutio”] of the church, before the household and the state existed … A church is thus established [here] that has no walls or any kind of external features, set in the broadest and most pleasant space. After the church was instituted, then the household was established as well … so the temple comes before the house, just as it is also placed on a higher level. There was no state before there was sin, since it was not yet necessary. The state is the necessary means for dealing with the depraved condition of nature.65

In his social and ethical decisions, Luther does not so much orient himself at the classic teaching of the two kingdoms of God’s realm and the devil’s, but instead, he puts these three estates in the center of his thinking.

Luther’s great contribution to Christian ethics therefore is that he does not limit God’s presence to a sacred realm, but sees God’s presence in all of creation: in church, household, and state. And if all of creation is God’s creation, there is no separation of holy and profane any more. Instead, there are a variety of realms in which every human (i.e., also every non-Christian) is called. The three estates (church, household, and state) describe man’s relationship to God, to himself, and to the world.

These three forms of life can be described as follows.

The Church

The church is the first and fundamental estate.66 For Luther, it is established in Genesis 2:16f., when God speaks to the human being by allowing him to eat from all trees of the garden except of one. This divine address and the expectation of the human answer set the basic framework in which church and religion operate. As it is an order of creation,67 this church includes all human beings and all religions. All human beings hear God’s address and all must answer to it. One must add that this church has been corrupted by human sin.

The Household

The household is the second estate; it is sometimes also referred to as “economy.” The household is established in Genesis 1:18, when God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” and in Genesis 1:28f., when God enables fellowship and posterity by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.”68 Luther sees this estate as the relationship between parents and children, between husband and wife, between human being and his field of work. It is the interrelationship of the human being with nature, the daily acquisition of his means of sustenance, his daily bread.

The State

The third estate as the political or stately realm is not one of creation. Instead, it is an order made necessary because of the Fall. It is established in Genesis 1:28f., where God gives dominion over the earth and in Genesis 3:16‒24, where life after the Fall is newly ordered.

This estate is easily underestimated and frequently considered “unspiritual.” But Luther points out that its main task is to battle against sin.69 It establishes peace and preserves order, when human society is in danger of falling apart or countries start battling against others. For Luther, in the end, it establishes peace, so that religion can prosper and the Gospel can be preached without interruption.

God’s Word of Institution

Each estate is established by God’s word. And although all three realms may seem simple and unspectacular, these simple human deeds are sanctified by God’s life-giving and life-promising address. These realms and estates are sanctified because they are installed by God’s word and will to unite his work with the work of creatures. Luther points out:

God could gather a church without the Word, manage the state without a government, produce children without parents … but He commands us and wants us to preach and to pray, and everyone to do his duty in his station.70

Nevertheless, the holiness of these three estates is not openly visible. It only becomes visible when one looks for God’s word, with which he installed these institutions.

The importance of God’s word becomes clear when Luther observes the duties of normal life: a maid cleaning the floor or parents cleaning diapers are considered something inglorious. But Luther points out that these trivial tasks are highly honored by God because God himself has installed these tasks by his word of institution.71 God hides himself under the trivial outside form of the estates just as if he wore a simple coat of a beggar72 because God wants to show man the weight of his word: the importance of God’s works is not visible from the outside but is recognizable merely through his word of institution.73

God’s word of institution becomes Luther’s most important criteria. It sanctifies the estates and gives man his place in them.74 Luther’s discovery of the world as God’s gift makes him see the world not as something “worldly” but as something spiritual. Everything that man is and has are God’s gifts,75 which are to be used.76 Luther sees even money as a positive gift from God and declines to follow a Franciscan ideal of poverty.77

This discovery of the world as something spiritual has great ethical consequences, not least in the question of the free will. In De servo arbitrio, Luther claims that in spiritual matters there is no free will, whereas in worldly matters there is. Considering his discovery of the world as something spiritual, one wonders how he can justify separating these two spheres in De servo arbitrio.

The Shaping of the Given World

For Luther, the government and rule of human beings is grounded in the fact that God does not keep the power of creation for himself. The ability to communicate, to engage with others, to have and establish fellowship, and thereby to create something new, is also given to human beings. As a God who shares himself with his creatures without reservation, God gives human beings a share in the divine attributes and makes them able to speak.78 Along with this capacity for language, human beings are also given the gift of verbal power: Adam’s governance and rule is manifested in the naming of the animals.79 With this gift of God’s participation and the resulting participation of the human being, a marvelous cooperation of divine and human energies takes place in the strictest sense: God gives himself into human hands, into human mouths, gives human beings the divine creative attributes and therewith a share in God’s own work.

Luther distinguishes himself sharply from monks who have left the world and in doing so failed to perceive their commission to give shape to the world. They spurn the tasks given with their stations in life precisely because they do not heed God’s word of institution and therewith the God who entrusted human beings with this task, however miserable and lowly it may seem. Luther writes: “Hence when a maid milks the cows or a hired man hoes the field—provided that they are believers, namely, that they conclude that this kind of life is pleasing to God and was instituted by God—they serve God more than all the monks and nuns.”80

For Luther, the free gift of the world through God’s promise “You may have dominion!” does not mean that our fellow creatures are commodities for consumption. Instead, to rule means: “Rule, so that everything blooms.”


Justification as Creation “ex nihilo”

For Luther, re-creation is of the same order as creation. Justification as an act of re-creation that mirrors the structures of all God’s creative activity, even into the characteristic of sola gratia being another form of saying creatio ex nihilo. The human being—just as in creation and preservation—receives here as well, as Luther shows in various examples, for instance, by the justification by faith and the baptism of infants.

Analogous to the word of God, which in the beginning created everything out of darkness, now the Holy Ghost speaks into the dark human heart the words “there shall be light” and thereby creates a new creature. This “new,” spiritually re-created human being is last but not least “new” because it receives a new way of perceiving God, the world, and its own life. God is the one who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17) and who in the same way “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). Creation and re-creation are categorical gifts. God’s giving takes place sola gratia, “without any merit and worthiness on my part.” With this formula from his “Small Catechism,” Luther identifies the doctrine of creation with the doctrine of justification.

This especially becomes clear in Luther’s famous confession:

We believe in God, who is an almighty creator, who makes everything out of nothing, who makes out of evil good, out of the hopeless and lost redemption and salvation. Just as Rom. 4:17 says, where Paul writes: “He who creates new things out of nothing” and 2 Cor. 4:6: “God, who said, light shall shine out of darkness.” This means: Not out of a gleaming coal a little spark, but “out of the darkness light”; also out of death life, out of sin justice, out of the slavery of the devil and hell heaven and the liberty of the children of God.81

“So Little the Children in Their Mother’s Womb Know of Their Birth”—The Corporeality of the New Creation

For Luther, the hope of his own bodily resurrection is directly linked to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Luther’s bodily understanding of this event is illustrated in his sleep or birth metaphors. Trusting this creator, death seems like a little nap or like a birth into a new world. Luther writes: “We are to sleep, until he [Christ] comes and knocks on the little grave and says: Doctor Martin, arise! Then I will come to life in an instant and will be happy with him forever.”82

Also, birth and resurrection are closely bound together.83 For Luther, death means returning into Christ’s “womb,”84 who will give birth by his own resurrection. For Luther, life is like being in a uterus, not knowing what will come in the future life after death: “So little the children in their mother’s womb know of their birth, so little we know of the eternal life to come.”85 The anxiety of birth is like the fear experienced in death.

Luther can also speak of death and even the coffin as a cradle, in which one is put like a little child and where one sleeps until one’s resurrection.86 Luther hereby links God’s sovereignty in creation, conservation, and resurrection to the human passivity in birth, death, and resurrection and the human ignorance of knowing what will come. Man is totally dependent on God. God is the “creator out of nothing” and man is “nothing” because he is nothing without God and his unfailing love as the motive of all creation (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2).

Luther can describe the resurrection of the dead with similar words as the creation of this world. No Christian should be irritated or tempted by his own death, the destruction of one’s own personal cosmos and existence and the darkness and apparent annihilation. Instead, one should trust in the creator of all things, who has promised to bring the dead back to life and to bring about a new world: As surely as God created the world in the beginning, he will re-create it. Even if death and decay threaten to be the last and definitive word, Luther encourages every creature to trust precisely that sovereign creator, who once created heaven and earth out of nothing. Before resurrection, there is “dust and ashes,” “decay and dishonour,” “worms and rot,” “foul earth full of stench”—but God will create from here a body, more beautiful than “all flowers, balsam, sun and stars.”87

By emphasizing, that the resurrected will surpass the sun,88 Luther does not only link the first creation with the second, but he also implies that the second creation surpasses the first.89 The creation of this world out of nothing and the resurrection of the dead as a creatio ex nihilo go hand in hand90 because the first creation is a prefiguration of the future one.91

This bodily understanding of resurrection is currently not self-evident, due to doubts concerning the bodily nature of Christ’s resurrection, as there are gnostic elements present in theology today. But if one interprets Christ’s resurrection as a kerygmatic resurrection, one would also need to speak of a kerygmatic resurrection of Christians as well because the nature of Christ’s resurrection determines the character of the resurrection of every Christian. Admittedly, such a bodiless kerygmatic resurrection is for the ordinary Christian rather unattractive. The advantage of Luther’s approach is that in an anti-Gnostic and anti-Docetistic way it refers to the bodily importance of creation: the body belongs to the being.


God is for Luther the creator, preserver, and re-creator of all. He calls life into existence, preserves and protects all beings, justifies the ungodly, resurrects the dead, and will create a new world according to his promise. He was, is, and remains the sovereign creator of everything. At the same time, Luther’s theology of creation is a salutary correction to some contemporary creational and ethical thinking.

Review of the Literature

There seems to be a present hesitation in approaching Luther on creational topics. Five hundred years separating us from him present a time span that seems to disqualify the great reformer as a current conversation partner in the theology of creation and especially modernity’s struggle with it. This hesitation is mirrored in the situation of the present literature. Nevertheless, it is precisely this seeming disadvantage of Luther’s historical remoteness and “old-fashionedness” that protects his theology of creation against any fanciness of the dernier cri and protects us against any merely short-lived conclusions.

The best book on Luther’s theology of creation is still David Löfgren’s Die Theologie der Schöpfung bei Luther from 1960.92 It is full of primary quotations and direct links to Luther’s texts, which provide great help for all who are focused on verifying their sources. In a similar way Johannes Schwanke in Creatio ex nihilo from 200493 offers an encyclopedic introduction into Luther’s theology of creation, exposing that for Luther all creation always is a creation out of nothing. Here as well one will find many valuable quotations. Unfortunately, both books are not available in English.

Oswald Bayer’s Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation from 200894 presents an excellent summary that sets Luther’s theology of creation into the context of his theology in general.

Among the recommended articles are the essays in “And God Saw That It Was Good,” edited by Frederick Gaiser and Mark Throntveit in 2006,95 Niels Gregersen’s focus on “Martin Luther’s Trinitarian View of Creation,”96 and finally The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomir Batka, in 2014.97

Primary Sources

Naturally, Luther’s lectures on the book of Genesis provide a solid ground for his theology of creation. As an Old Testament scholar, Luther continuously worked on this exposition: from 1519 until 1521, there is Luther’s “Scholia in librum Genesis” (Gen. 1‒34; WA 9:329–415); from October 1519 until March 1521, there are around forty-five sermons on Genesis 8‒31 (WA 9:416–616). From March 1523 until September 1524, Luther preached sixty sermons on all chapters of the book of Genesis (WA 14:92–488). And finally, 1535, Luther begins with his Great Lecture on the book of Genesis, his longest and last lecture, which he finishes three months before his death (WA 42–44). Especially this lecture shows how the topic creation is not just limited to the first chapters of Genesis, but goes thorough all chapters and is constantly mentioned, for example, when Luther describes the birth of Isaac to old Abraham and barren Sarah, when he describes the preservation of Joseph in prison and his delivery out of it by becoming the counsel of Pharaoh, and finally when he speaks of Abraham’s justification. For Luther, these are all explicit situations of creation and every time he explicitly uses the word “creatio.”

Further Reading

Bayer, Oswald. Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.Find this resource:

Gaiser, Frederick J., and Mark A. Throntveit, eds. “And God Saw That It Was Good”: Essays on Creation and God in Honour of Terence E. Fretheim. St. Paul, MN: Word and World Luther Seminary, 2003.Find this resource:

Gregersen, Niels Henrik. “‘Unio Creatoris et Creaturae’: Martin Luther’s Trinitarian View of Creation.” In Cracks in the Walls, by Niels Henrik Gregersen, 43–58. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2005.Find this resource:

Löfgren, David. Die Theologie der Schöpfung bei Luther. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1960.Find this resource:

Schwanke, Johannes. Creatio ex nihilo: Luthers Lehre von der Schöpfung aus dem Nichts in der großen Genesisvorlesung (1535–1545). Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004Find this resource:


(1.) BC 354, 2ff.; BC-T 345; cf. Ps. 139:14.

(2.) WA 42:57, 34–58, 2; English translation in LW 1:76. My own translations from the WA are sometimes provided; please cf. LW as well.

(3.) David Löfgren, Die Theologie der Schöpfung bei Luther (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1960), 21.

(4.) LW 3:29–31; WA 42:23, 16–18; LW 1:33–34; WA 42:25, 1.

(5.) WA 45:15, 16f. (Sermon on the Articles of Faith; February 11, 1537): “Denn was heists: got[t] [besonders] darumb dancken, das du ein mensch bist, gerad[e] alls weren andere thier [animals] nicht auch gottes geschopf.”

(6.) LW 1:239–240; WA 42:178, 31–33.

(7.) LW 3:43–44; WA 42:579, 9f.

(8.) LW 5:74–75; WA 43:480, 40–481, 2.

(9.) LW 1:122 WA 42:92, 2f.

(10.) LW 1:10–11; WA 42:8, 34–9, 13.

(11.) LW 1:93; WA 42:71, 15–17.

(12.) LW 1:76; WA 42:57, 41f.

(13.) LW 1:75; WA 42:57, 9–12. See further LW 1:75–76; WA 42:57, 12–20.

(14.) LW 1:75; WA 42:57, 9, 11f.: “Deum per verbum condidisse omnia…. Ideo videmus multiplicationem sine fine.” Further LW 1:75; WA 42:57, 12–20.

(15.) LW 1:75–76; WA 42:57, 27–30.

(16.) LW 1:53–54; WA 42:40 ,32f. Cf. LW 1:53–54; WA 42:40, 39.

(17.) LW 1:75; WA 42:57, 9, 11: “Haec verba usque hodie durant.” Cf. LW 1:21–22; WA 42:17, 12f.

(18.) LW 1:53–54; WA 42:40, 32f.: “verbum huius diei adhuc esse efficax.” And LW 1:53–54; WA 42:40 39.

(19.) WA 24:37, 24–29 (Sermon on Gen. 1; 1527: “So wenig als [“wie”] Gottes wesen auffhöret, so wenig höret auch das sprechen auff, o[h]ne das zeitlich die Creatur durch dasselbige haben angefangen, Aber er spricht noch ymmerdar und gehet o[h]n unterlas ym schwange, denn kein Creatur vermag yhr wesen von sich selbs[t] zu haben, Darumb so lang ein Creatur weret, so lang weret das wort auch, so lang die erde tregt odder vermag zu tragen, so gehet ymmer das sprechen o[h]n auffhören.”

(20.) LW 1:75–76; WA 42:57, 22–24.

(21.) LW 1:38–39; WA 42:29, 28: “domicilium … elegans."

(22.) LW 1:38–39; WA 42:29, 31. See also LW 2:132–133; WA 42:355, 21–33.

(23.) LW 1:38–39; WA 42:29, 31: “diviciis tam amplae domus”.

(24.) LW 1:38–39; WA 42:29, 30f.: “in quam a Deo deducitur et iubetur frui omnibus”.

(25.) LW 1:35–36; WA 42:26, 41–27, 7.

(26.) LW 1:35–36; WA 42:27, 10–12.

(27.) WA 46:558, 20–32.

(28.) LW 2:255; WA 42:443, 30f.: “quas hunc patremfamilias gessisse constat, qui est Deus aeternus”.

(29.) LW 1:72; WA 42:55, 3–5.

(30.) LW 1:11–13; WA 42:10, 4–7: “ideo involvit se Deus in opera et certas species”. Cf. LW 1:35–36; WA 42:27, 9‒13.

(31.) WA 21:521, 21–25.

(32.) LW 2:252–253; WA 42:441, 40–442, 4. Compare with LW 4:197–198; WA 43:278, 37–279, 2.

(33.) WA 40/III:509, 18–510, 22: Even the creation of Adam out of clay bears for Luther no difference to the natural birth of a child.

(34.) LW 1:25–26; WA 42:20, 21: “quis Autor addit?”. Note Luther’s capitalization and therefore title.

(35.) LW 7:365–366; WA 44:572, 25–27: “talia enim sunt divina poëmata”. Luther refers to Eph. 2:10, quotes “Nos sumus … poëma Dei” and adds: “nos versus sumus et carmina.”

(36.) LW 1:21–22; WA 42:17, 18f.: “Sic Sol, Luna, Coelum, terra, Petrus, Paulus, Ego, tu, etc. sumus vocabula Dei”. LW 5:257–258; WA 43:606, 34f. Cf. Isa. 40,26 and Erasmus, Carmina selecta, 11,57.

(37.) LW 1:21–22; WA 42:17, 15–17: “non grammatica vocabula.”

(38.) LW 1:21–22; WA 42:17, 21–23: “Grammatica divina”. Cf. LW 1:49–50; WA 42:37, 6f.

(39.) LW 1:18–19; WA 42:15, 13, 19: “omnipotens Verbum”.

(40.) LW 54:21; WA TR 1:69, 29f., no. 148: “With one word he created the whole world”.

(41.) 1 Cor. 14:10: “nihil sine voce est” (Vulgate).

(42.) LW 1:147–148; WA 42:111, 12: “Primo Satan imitatur Deum”; LW 1:148–149; WA 42:112, 3.

(43.) WA TR 1:170, 32f., no. 391: “Gellt [“Geld,” money] est verbum Diaboli, per quod omnia in mundo creat, sicut Deus per verum verbum creat.” Cf. LW 5:32–33; WA 43:451, 28.

(44.) LW 1:21–22; WA 42:17, 28–31: “Dictor”; and LW 1:16; WA 42:13, 31f.: “Dicit enim Deum esse, ut sic loquar, Dictorem”.

(45.) LW 25:290–291; WA 56:304, 25–29: “tam profunda est in seipsam incurva”).

(46.) BC 354, 2ff.; BC-T 345.

(47.) LW 1:355–356; WA 42:261, 1–8.

(48.) LW 1:75–76; WA 42:57, 22–24.

(49.) LW 4:136; WA 43:233, 24f.

(50.) LW 4:90; WA 43:200, 15f. Cf. LW 5:197–198; WA 43:564, 25f.; and LW 2:132–133; WA 42:335, 39f.

(51.) WA 12:440, 3–7 (Sermon on the First Book of Moses, March 15, 1523).

(52.) WA 12:445, 10–12 (Sermon on the First Book of Moses, March 15, 1523).

(53.) Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, §147, trans. H. R. Mackintosh, et al. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1928), 673: “The objection [against Schleiermacher’s theory of prayer] assumes that we really believe that by prayer we can exert an influence on God, His will and purpose being thereby deflected. Now this conflicts with our primary and basal presupposition that there can be no relation of interaction between creature and Creator; and a theory of prayer which starts with ideals like those just indicated we can only describe (even though it be held by Christians as devoted as they are believing) as a lapse into magic.”

(54.) Rudolf Bultmann, Glauben und Verstehen, vol. 2, 6th ed. (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr-Siebeck, 1993), 231: “Recognizing reported events as acts of God presume a prior understanding of what can be called an act of God at all” (emphasis added).

(55.) Helmut Thielicke, Der Evangelische Glaube: Grundzüge der Dogmatik, vol. 1 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr-Siebeck, 1968), 142. English translation: The Evangelical Faith, vol. 1, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromily (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 114: This is the moment “when transcendence is silent, when the empirical consciousness posits its own frequencies as absolute.”

(56.) WA 17/I:318, 11f.; WA TR 2:327, 2f., no. 2117: “Mundus autem vult decipere aut decipi; ideo mundo nullum est cum veritate negotium.”

(57.) LW 1:157; WA 42:118, 11–32; cf. Gen. 3:1.

(58.) LW 25:345; WA 3:212, 36. Cf. also LW 25:258 and 25:304–305.

(59.) LW 7:332–333; WA 44:546, 24f.

(60.) WA 50:473, 34–37; WA 40/I, 94–96; WA 13:89, 1–3.

(61.) WA 16:130, 6–12; cf. also the Hebrew word “bara,” to “create,” which is only used for God’s creating.

(62.) LW 3:217; WA 43:30, 13f.: “tres ordines: Est enim alia vita Oeconomica, alia politica, alia ecclesiastica.” LW 7:311–312; WA 44:530, 33.

(63.) LW 2:355–356; WA 42:516, 33–35.

(64.) WA 31/I:410, 16f; cf. LW 13:369.

(65.) LW 1:103–104; WA 42:79, 3–14; LW 1:28–29; WA 42:22, 17–32; cf. also LW 1:115 and LW 1:131.

(66.) LW 1:103–104; WA 42:79, 3–5.

(67.) LW 1:103; LW 1:106.

(68.) LW 1:103–104; WA 42:79, 5f.: “Post institutam Ecclesiam etiam Oeconomia constituitur, cum Adae additur socia Heua." LW 1:114–115; WA 42:87, 11–13.

(69.) LW 1:103–104; WA 42, 79, 8–11.

(70.) LW 4:354; WA 43:391, 3–6; see also LW 3:287–288; WA 43:81, 21–31.

(71.) WA 10/II:295–297.

(72.) LW 4:6–7; WA 43:140, 27.

(73.) LW 4:3–4; WA 43:138, 30f.

(74.) LW 2:356; WA 42:517, 12–18.

(75.) LW 2:392–393; WA 42:544, 27f.; LW 2:4–5; WA 42:265, 39–41.

(76.) LW 2:328–329; WA 42:497, 7–9.

(77.) LW 2:327–328; WA 42:496, 17f.; LW 2:326–327; WA 42:495, 24f.

(78.) WA TR 1:565, 22–24, no. 1148: “Inter omnia opera seu dona praestantissimum est loqui. Hoc enim solo opere homo differt ab omnibus animalibus, alioqui nonnulla hominem visu, aliqua odoratu, aliqua tactu etc. Excellunt.” WA DB 10 I:100, 10–14 (Second Preface to the Psalms, 1528): “Es ist ia ein stummer mensch gegen einem redenden, schier als ein halb todter mensch zu achten, vnd kein krefftiger noch edler werck am menschen ist, denn reden.” WA TR 4:546, 11–13, no. 4855.

(79.) LW 1:119; WA 42:90, 14–20// die Impulse für unsere Romreisen hier an der STH. wesen war. die ihm STecken che, wo es irgend einen besonderen Althar gab.

(80.) LW 3:321; WA 43:106, 2–6.

(81.) LW 8:38–39; WA 44:607, 33–39.

(82.) WA 37:151, 8 (Sermon on Matthew 18,1ff.; September 20, 1533).

(83.) LW 4:330–331; WA 43:374, 22–24.

(84.) LW 4:315–316; WA 43:362, 20–22, 27–32.

(85.) WA TR 3:276, 26f., no. 3339: “Als [“So”] wenig die kinder wissen im mutterleib von ihrer anfa[h]rt [“birth”], so wenig wissen wir vom ewigen leben.”

(86.) LW 4:313; WA 43:360:42–361, 1.

(87.) LW 4:190; WA 43:272, 32–39; cf. LW 4:119; WA 43:221, 29–31.

(88.) LW 4:192–193; WA 43:274,9f.; LW 6:281; WA 44:209, 9–11; LW 7:210; WA 44:455, 14–16; LW 6:401–402; WA 44:300, 17–21.

(89.) LW 1:100; WA 42:76, 21–23; LW 1:100; WA 42:76, 26f.; LW 1:71–72; WA 42:54, 15f.; LW 3:124–125; WA 42:637, 3f.

(90.) LW 4:120; WA 43:222, 8–14.

(91.) LW 1:39–40; WA 42:30, 4f.; and LW 1:49–50; WA 42:37, 18, 20.

(92.) David Löfgren, Die Theologie der Schöpfung bei Luther (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1960).

(93.) Johannes Schwanke, Creatio ex nihilo: Luthers Lehre von der Schöpfung aus dem Nichts in der großen Genesisvorlesung (1535–1545) (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004).

(94.) Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008).

(95.) Frederick J. Gaiser and Mark A. Throntveit, eds., “And God Saw That It Was Good”: Essays on Creation and God in Honor of Terence E. Fretheim (St. Paul, MN: Word and World Luther Seminary, 2006).

(96.) Niels Henrik Gregersen, “‘Unio Creatoris et Creaturae’: Martin Luther’s Trinitarian View of Creation,” in Cracks in the Walls, by Niels Henrik Gregersen (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2005), 43–58.

(97.) Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, L’ubomir Batka, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), esp. ch. 35.