15 July 2008

Luther on Education – Source Located

There is a famous quotation of Luther that goes,

I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.

A brief search of the Internet can find many, many times this is quoted. But I wasn’t able to find any references to the source of that quotation. In fact, I even read one place where Luther’s authorship was doubted. (Indeed, quite a few of Luther’s popular “quotes” are not authentic.)

A little effort last week with my Luther’s Works in Logos yielded the original in the American Edition, though worded a bit differently. I imagine the quote as popularly cited comes from an older translation. The words come from Luther’s 1520 work, “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate.”

I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God’s word becomes corrupt. ... I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell.

Luther, M. (1999, c1966). Vol. 44: Luther's works, vol. 44 : The Christian in Society I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (44:207). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Rob Franck


Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

I had never heard a version that included the warning for universities. This reminds me of the crisis of the Enlightenment. The rise and triumph of the status of reason claimed to offer certainty of knowledge (besides deeper and broader knowledge), but the claims of reason also introduced skepticism. This skepticism was supposed to be skepticism of authorities other than reason, but has degenerated today in a skepticism of seemingly everything.

I have appreciated my studies at Notre Dame, an environment where there is at least room at the table for Scripture and tradition, but I am still taken aback at the refusal to give the benefit of the doubt to Scripture, tradition, and traditional explanations of Scripture. The preeminence of reason and the resulting skepticism has not made us wiser men, but ungrounded men.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks for tracking down the source of this quote, Brother Franck, and for bringing it to our attention. I agree with Brother Grobien that the reference to universities is instructive. I, too, was subject to some "culture shock" when I transitioned from my M.Div. and S.T.M. work at the seminary to my doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame; even though my studies there did still involve the Holy Scriptures and Christian doctrine.

At the level of elementary and secondary education, Luther's point is one that parents ought to consider and take seriously. Where there is the option of a Lutheran school available, that should be considered. Where that is not the case -- and even where it is a viable option -- Christian parents should carefully thinkg about the possibility of homeschooling. I realize that approach would not work so well for everyone (and that certain states have made it very difficult, if not illegal; which is travesty of freedom and basic human rights). Yet, parents are (and are to be) the primary educators of their own children; the responsibility is theirs, both for their children's training in the arts and sciences for life in this world, and for their children's catechesis in the Christian faith and life for this world and the next.

It has frustrated me when proponents of Lutheran schools have viewed Lutheran homeschoolers as being opposed to Lutheran education. Quite the opposite is true, at the least in the case of my own family and our many Lutheran homeschooling friends. We homeschool our children in large part for the sake of seeing to it that they are catechized in the Word of God, Lutheran doctrine, piety and practice.

I'm thinking that Emmaus in South Bend may be relatively unique, however, in having as high a percentage of homeschooling families as we do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tracking down the source for this quote! Much appreciated :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tracking down the source, much appreciated :)