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GET DRUNK – Martin Luther told me so

24 July 2012

For bedtime reading I’ve been loving Mike Reeves book on church history and I am currently reading On Giants’ Shoulders which takes you through a number of the great church thinkers in history – Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, Schleiermacher & Barth.

As ever, I have especially enjoyed reading Martin Luther, as much for his charisma, character and temperament as his theology. He was very famous for enjoying a few drinks and speaking his mind around the dinner table to anyone who would care to listen. He has a very interesting book called Table Talks where he wrote hundreds of letters of pastoral advice. Reeves Writes – “Like his theology, his advice is consistently startling.” Check this out

Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some sin in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. We shall be overcome if we worry too much about falling into some sin.

Accordingly if the devil should say, “do not drink” you should reply to him “on this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount.” Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me? Would that I could commit some token sin simply for the sake of mocking the devil, so that he might understand that I acknowledge no sin and am conscious of no sin. When the devil attacks and torments us we must completely set aside the whole Decalogue. When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall also be”

Now when someone has come to me saying they are drinking too much and wanted my advice I have NEVER said anything like that, but then again, I am not Martin Luther.

I love Luthers passion to (a) fight off the temptation of the devil, (b) fight off the temptation to justify ourselves by our works and (c) fight to enjoy fully the benefits of grace – Luther clearly wants to avoid legalism. However would the Apostle Paul not say “What shall we say then? Shall we carry on sinning so grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6vs1-2).  When grace becomes cheap and we fall into license then we also have misunderstood grace (in another direction so to speak).

That said, even if am slightly unsure if I would follow Luthers pastoral advice I think he is no to something, in that instead of focussing on avoiding ‘the sin’ we should focus more on grace. As we start to enjoy grace all the more the desire to sin will fall away and the desire to justify ourselves by works will become obsolete.


Would you offer the same pastoral advice to someone you know who feels they ought not to drink?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    1 September 2012 7:24 pm

    While he was a monk he used too worry about spending a minute too long by the fire… no wonder he thinks the devil is behind legalism.

    I absolutely couldn’t get enough of mike reeves reformation history book, so this ones sounds like a good read?

    • 2 September 2012 9:21 am

      Hey Beany,

      Thanks for your comments. The 3 Mike Reeves books on church history are exceptional and I have just ordered his book book on the Trinity which is getting rave reviews


  2. Jonathan Daniels permalink
    2 October 2015 12:26 am

    I don’t know what to think of this, we are told in the scriptures to not sin, but then Luther advocates getting drunk. How does he justify that? How do we just left that?

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