September 24, 2012
Professor Hans J. Hillerbrand (Duke) will lecture on Luther’s spiritual classic, "On Christian Liberty," also known as "The Freedom of a Christian." Copies of the book are available on the book cart and the church office (Tuesdays through Fridays) at $10.
At the urging of his colleagues, Luther wrote a conciliatory summary of his insights into the Christian life based on the Reformer’s biblical investigations, especially into Galatians. The work presents a deep dialectical understanding of faith, in which Luther seeks to reconcile two theses that are seemingly contradictory but salutary when reconciled from a higher perspective.
"A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." –Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, Ed. Timothy Lull, Fortress Press, p. 623.)
The freedom of the Christian is the human response to the gospel proclamation of God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ. Human beings are set free to act in grateful response to God and action toward our neighbor based on the neighbor’s need and not our need for recognition and honor (justification) in this life. Take a look at Luther’s conclusion to see if you would like to learn how he got there.
"We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor." (unaltered translation from Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, p. 623.)
Hans Hillerbrand teaches the history of the Reformation and modern Christianity at Duke University. He was born and raised in Germany. Professor Hillerbrand studied at the University of Erlangen, where he received his PhD in 1959. He taught first in the United States in Divinity School of Duke University until 1970. He then taught at City University of New York and later at Southern Methodist University, where he also served as provost. He returned to Duke in 1988.
Professor Hillerbrand has published extensively on the Reformation. His most recent publications include The Division of Christendom. A History of Christianity in the Sixteenth Century, and A New History of Christianity (2012). He is editor-in-chief of four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Hans Hillerbrand served as president of the Society for Reformation Research, American Society of Church History, and the American Academy of Religion. He is author or editor of some 15 books and over 75 articles.