A great Sasse quote…
Things have certainly changed in the world since the first anniversary of the Reformation. Yet the final, do-or-die questions of theology have remained the same. God has remained constant regarding his wrath and his grace, regarding his Word in Law and Gospel. Christ the Lord has remained the same and is present with us in the Gospel and in the Sacrament as he has been at all times. The Holy Ghost is present and efficacious in the means of grace, as he has always been. And even man has remained the same in his misery, although he would not desire to recognize it. For the man of our times, ostensibly come of age, is really not so elevated above sixteenth-century man. Claus Harms [1778-1855] compared people of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries in one of his theses for the Reformation anniversary of 1817. "The forgiveness of sins cost money, believe it or not, in the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth, however, one gets it entirely for free, for it is self-serve. That time stood higher than ours, because it was nearer to God." And what about the progress of modern man on the way to ever-greater maturity? Who does not think at this point about Kant's [1724-1804] definition of the Enlightenment? With such "maturity" comes distance from God, who is not the God of the wise and clever but of the child (Matthew 11:25). When this maturity is supposed to have grown so great that, as the message of the Lutheran World Federation from Helsinki suggests, modern man no longer understands the question about a gracious God but rather sets up the "far more radical" question of whether God really exists, then what Luther says in the explanation of the First Commandment in the Large Catechism remains true: The question about God is the question about the God that one can "trust and believe from the heart" and who is ever our sanctuary (BSLK p.560, lines 22f.; p. 564, lines 9f.). Any other question about God is philosophy. In all of the religions upon the earth, and still today in idolatry, there is embedded, according to Luther, the great human question of life, the question concerning the gracious God. Were it the case that this question is no longer understood today, then that would not be a sign of maturity, but rather of the spiritual blindness that fosters and precedes spiritual death. Yet every pastor knows that in the reality of life, the question about the gracious God, the question about human sin and divine forgiveness breaks forth again and again and becomes the deepest question of human life.
Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors #60, 1967.