Since we have ourselves not become believers as a consequence of rational argument or by means of a rational decision on our part, we should not expect to persuade other men by lengthy and learned disputations. In 1541 in connection with the controversies over the Lord's supper Luther remarked,
It is not necessary that we should dispute sharply on this matter, since it is seldom that a man can be sufficiently instructed and satisfied by long disputations, even if we meet once or twice. It requires a good long time to remove such erring opinions and delusions from the heart. For this we require good, friendly discussions and polite, sensible people.
As we would expect from a man who took such a position, Luther resisted all attempts at making the gospel reasonable. Christian theologians are often tempted to do this, and questions like "Isn't it reasonable?" are sometimes asked in an attempt to persuade others of the truths of the christian religion. Luther considered such efforts to be not only a waste of time, but even positively dangerous and destructive of the Christian faith.
... Faith has to do with unseen things. This is a commonly repeated emphasis in Luther's lectures and sermons. He asks, "What kind of faith is this to which reason can attain?" There would be no need of faith, he says in the Table Talk, if the truths were rational. Of the doctrine of the person of Christ he says that if it could be understood by reason, there would be no faith involved in its acceptance. The sacramentarians, who denied the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper, argued that since Christ was now sitting at the right hand of God, he could not be present in the sacrament. But Luther says that we know (and do not need to believe) that in the sacrament there is bread and wine. We can recognize it for what it is when we see it with our eyes. But by faith alone we furthermore insist that Christ is both at the right hand of God and also truly present in the sacrament. This does not make sense to us. But we must remember that if our Lord God had given us articles of faith which our understanding could grasp, none of us would be saved.
...More than this, faith cannot be maintained even in a Christian by arguments from reason. All the articles of the true faith are so difficult and so far beyond our reach that no man can hold fast to them without the grace of the Holy Spirit.
...Luther held that it is only man's damnable pride that keeps him from seeing that the way out of this conflict between reason and the Word is not to be sought in a modification of the Scriptures but in a change in reason. Since scripture cannot be broken, it is reason that must break. It is not difficult, according to Luther, for men to change the truths of Scripture to make them reasonable. It takes no great skill to philosophize about these things. When unbelievers point out that there are difficulties in Christian doctrines, they ought not to imagine that these same thoughts have not occurred to believing children of God. But if a Christian apologete reacts to this accusation by trying to make the message more consistent with the dictates of reason, he is courting disaster.
...He said that if we would insist on comprehending the articles of faith with our reason, we would very quickly lose baptism, the sacrament of the altar, the Word, grace, original sin, and all things, for not one of these is understood by reason. Of the arguments which the sacramentarians used against the real presence of the body and blood of the Savior in the Lord's Supper, Luther said that they want to measure and master this whole matter with their sophistic reason and clever subtleties, and he predicted that eventually it would come to this that they would also deny that Christ is God, for the same arguments which overthrow the first (the real presence), also cast doubt on the second (the personal union in Christ). Luther's prophecy in this matter has been fulfilled in modern Protestantism, where the denial of the real presence has borne this fruit.
From The Foolishness of God by Siegbert Becker (c) 1982 Northwestern Publishing House (www.nph.net). All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.