Now there’s a word you don’t hear every day.  I don’t know why it’s not horsewomanship since it seems to me that women are fonder of horses and better with them than men are.   But then again the “Horse whisper” was male.  I digress.

Luther used a lame horse to “explain” the problem of evil.  You can’t dethrone God to explain how evil exists in a world where God is omnipotent and all-loving.  God, rather, is like the rider of a lame horse.  The harder your ride a lame horse the more evident his lameness appears.  The lame horse is fallen man.  Luther uses the example of Pharaoh; the harder God pressed upon him the more his wickedness showed.

Luther also used horses, actually mules but I didn’t think mulemanship was a word or ought to be for that matter, in defending his thesis that man has no free will in things above him.  Fallen man is like a mule.  He is either ridden by God or the Devil.  Whomever he is ridden by, he goes in the direction his rider takes him.

These illustrations you probably know about from Luther’s Bondage of the Will.  What I didn’t know is that the Scholasticism Luther was writing against already used the imagery of the horse and rider.  But they used it to support free will.  The animal was free will and it cooperates with the rider which is grace (Martin Luther’s Theology, Bayer, 194, fn. 45).

There’s one more illustration after which I will quit horsing around.  Luther, I think in his commentary on Galatians, uses the illustration of a horse and rider this way.  The horse is the sinful, fallen old man.  The rider is the new man created after Christ Jesus in true righteousness and holiness.  The bit, bridle, and whip are used on the horse not the rider.  Luther goes on to say that the threats and judgment of the Law are to be applied to the old man not the new.  The Gospel is to be applied to the new man not the old. Luther says most all of us do the opposite.  The Law reigns in our conscience kicking around the rider, our new man, while the Gospel reigns over the old man, the horse, giving it free reign.

I really don’t know much about horses: you are to get on them from the left; don’t come up behind them, and they bite.  They also fart a lot when they run which calls into question my opening assertion that women are fonder of them than men.  In any event, as I was saying, I don’t know much about horses, but I do know if the rider doesn’t take charge of it, it takes charge of him.  And when that happens, you have the rider continually beating himself up for where the horse took him which is to say that more bit, bridle, and whip are applied to the rider.  This is not horsemanship but treating a man like a horse.  In the case of a runaway horse, sometimes the best thing to do is to unhorse and go back to being a mule ridden by God.  He-haw.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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