Happy thoughts from The Wound of Knowledge by Rowan Williams, taken from the excellent chapter on Martin Luther. I would make an eyebrow/Dumbledore/beard joke, but let’s face it, that one is pretty much played out. Read on for that comment by the former Archbishop of Canterbury on Luther’s relationship to Rhineland mysticism you’ve been searching for:

“This is the essence of Christian humility, the recognition of one’s total poverty, the ’emptying out’ of human wisdom and human righteousness. It is a true ‘coming to oneself’, in that… it calls things by their proper names, penetrates the appearance, the illusion of being successful and at home in the world, and unveils the truth of human exigency.” (p. 151)

“To know forgiveness in the midst of hell because of the cross of Christ is the true criterion of the Christian faith.” (p. 152)

“Luther was deeply influenced by the heritage of the Rhineland mystics. But what is different is the insistence that the birth of the Word in the soul can only come after the entry into dereliction: God is born out of the hell of abandonment. It is both the triumph of ‘experiential theology’ and the wreck of a mere theology of experience.” (p. 154)

“The Reformation put a question of the utmost gravity to all Christians, a question about the continuity and dependability of human response to God. It affirmed that the Church was capable of error; that no amount of scholastic tidiness could guarantee fidelity to God; that there was in the Church no secure locus of unquestionable authority. It pointed eloquently to human brokenness, the failure of reason and order. But it did so only to claim triumphantly that the Church’s security lay in this very failure, in the insecurity and un-rootedness which drove it always back to its spring in the Word made broken flesh. Against the self-sufficiency of Christendom is set – rightly and decisively – the cross. To Christians looking for a sign, an assurance, it offered only the ‘sign of the Son of Man’, God hidden in the death of Christ… Luther is a reminder to Catholic and Protestant alike that the strength of Christianity is its refusal to turn away from the central and unpalatable facts of human self-destructiveness; that it is there, in the bitterest places of alienation, that the depth and scope of Christ’s victory can be tasted, and the secret joy which transforms all experience from within can come to birth, the hidden but all-pervading liberation.” (p. 160-61)