#ICYMI – Where Did Luther’s Flash of Insight Come?

luther 92Students sometimes ask about Luther’s being knocked off his horse by lightning during a storm and his vow to St Ann which the talebearers insist is what drove him to the monastic life.  All that nonsense, fortunately, is nothing more than silly myth.  Here’s Luther’s own description of the ‘lightning’ that moved him to his understanding of Justification:

“The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience like lightning. When I heard them I was exceedingly terrified. If God is righteous [I thought], he must punish. But when by God’s grace I pondered, in the tower and heated room of this building [i.e., the latrine] over the words, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ [Rom. 1:17] and ‘the righteousness of God’ [Rom. 3:21], I soon came to the conclusion that if we, as righteous men, ought to live from faith and if the righteousness of God contribute to the salvation of all who believe, then salvation won’t be our merit but God’s mercy. My spirit was thereby cheered. For it’s by the righteousness of God that we’re justified and saved through Christ. These words [which had before terrified me] now became more pleasing to me. The Holy Spirit unveiled the Scriptures for me in this tower.”

Luther was ‘converted’ in a tower toilet, not on horseback during a storm.  And the only ‘lightning’ around was the flash of an idea.