How to get to heaven?
Hvordan kommer man helt præcist i himlen? Gode gerninger? Kan du få dig selv til himlen på din egen fortjeneste, eller skal du læne dig tilbage og lade Gud gøre arbejdet? Disse spørgsmål har forårsaget internationale kontroverser, masseplyndringer, hærværk og drab i det syttendeårhundrede. Et offer for denne vold og kaos var ødelæggelsen af tusindvis religiøse værker og kunst. Ikonoklaster(bevidst billedødelæggelse) stormede gennem kirker og ødelagde så meget de kunne. Hvorfor blev det, at komme i himlen, så kontroversielt?

Det mest indflydelsesrige billede af den lutherske Reformation

These questions are answered in a surprising kind of picture called The Law and the Gospel (full image below, detail above), originally painted by the artist Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1529. The Law and the Gospel is the single most influential image of the Lutheran Reformation. Reformationen, indledt af Martin Luther i 1517, var oprindeligt et forsøg på at reformere den katolske kirke. Reformationen blev dog hurtigt til et oprør, da folk begyndte at sætte spørgsmålstegn ved den magt og praksis, som den katolske kirke udførte, særligt fordi den katolske kirke på daværende tidspunkt var den eneste kirke i Vesteuropa inden Reformationen.

The role of art

En afgørende forskel mellem katolikkerne og tilhængere af Luther var spørgsmålet om, hvordan man kommer i himlen, og hvilken rolle religiøs kunst skulle spille, hvis kunst overhovedet skulle spille en rolle. Den katolske kirke insisterede på, at troende kunne træffe valg til at sikre deres frelse, blandt andet ved at gøre gode gerninger, herunder støtte den katolske kirke og betale for omfattende kunst, som skulle pryde de kristne kirker. Luther, however, insisted that salvation was in God’s hands, and all the believer had to do was to open up and have faith. Da folk blev desillusionerede omkring den katolske kirkes undervisning, så voksede der en utilfredshed blandt befolkningen omkring de måder, den katolske kirke blev rig på, både når det gjaldt penge, kunst og magt. Da reform blev umuliggjort og oprør var den eneste vej for Luthers tilhængere, så fandt frustrerede katolikker et let men stadig betydningsfuldt offer, nemlig kunstværker.
Other reformers followed Luther’s example and staged rebellions against the Catholic Church. Nogle reformatorer tog en stærk holdning imod religiøs kunst og forbød det helt. Luther var dog mere moderat og troede på, at noget religiøst kunst var acceptabelt, hvis det dog kunne lære om den rigtige moral, og det er her Loven og Evangeliet kommer ind i billedet.

Luther's ideas in visual form

In consultation with Martin Luther, Lucas Cranach the Elder produced The Law and the Gospel(below). All of Cranach’s Lutheran painting rests upon this pictorial type, which also influenced other artists. The Law and the Gospel explains Luther’s ideas in visual form, most basically the notion that heaven is reached through faith and God’s grace. Luther despised and rejected the Catholic idea that good deeds, what he called “good works,” could play any role in salvation.
In The Law and the Gospel (below), two nude male figures appear on either side of a tree that is green and living on the “Gospel” side to the viewer’s right, but barren and dying on the "law" side to the viewer’s left. Six columns of Bible citations appear at the bottom of the panel.

Right ("gospel") side

On the "gospel" side of the image (the right side), John the Baptist directs a naked man to both Christ on the cross in front of the tomb and to the risen Christ who appears on top of the tomb (see detail at top of page). The risen Christ stands triumphant above the empty tomb, acting out the miracle of the Resurrection. This nude figure is not vainly hoping to follow the law or to present a tally of his good deeds on the judgment day. He stands passively, stripped down to his soul, submitting to God’s mercy.

Left ("law") side

In the left foreground a skeleton and a demon force a frightened naked man into hell, as a group of prophets, including Moses, point to the tablets of the law. The motifs on the left side of the composition are meant to exemplify the idea that law alone, without gospel, can never get you to heaven. Christ sits in Judgment as Adam and Eve (in the background) eat the fruit and fall from grace. Moses beholds these events from his vantage point toward the center of the picture, his white tablets standing out against the saturated orange robe and the deep green tree behind him, literally highlighting the association of law, death, and damnation.
Taken together, these motifs demonstrate that law leads inescapably to hell when mistaken for a path to salvation, as the damned naked man demonstrates.

Gud dømmer og Gud viser barmhjertighed

The Law and the Gospel is concerned with two roles that God plays, to judge and to show mercy. På den ene side dømmer og fordømmer gud menneskers synd; men på den anden side viser Gud også barmhjertighed og tilgivelse ved at tildele ufortjent frelse til syndige. Som reformationsforsker Bernhard Lohse forklarer:
The Word of God encounters people as law and as gospel, as a word of judgment and as a word of grace…. It is certainly true that there is more law than gospel in the Old Testament and more gospel than law in the New Testament. Luther’s distinction between law and gospel, however, referred to something other than the division of biblical statements into the two parts of the biblical canon. Denne skelnen beskriver snarere, at Gud både dømmer og er barmhjertig.*
Luther’s idea of law is multifaceted, and bears a complex relationship to his idea of gospel. Though law alone will never make salvation possible, it remains indispensable as the way the believer recognizes sin and the need for grace. Loven baner vejen til frelse ved at forberede vejen til nåde.
Although The Law and the Gospel includes events from both the New and the Old Testaments, it is not a simple contrast of Christianity and Judaism. If The Law and the Gospel simply distinguished between the Old and New Testaments—or even more broadly between Judaism and Christianity—then it would not be specifically Lutheran or new, art historically or theologically. Instead, The Law and Gospel concerns two aspects of the relationship between humanity and God, a relationship based on human action on the one hand, and divine power on the other. The Law and Gospel describes events throughout the Bible which reveal the dual aspect of God’s relationship to people.
The Law and the Gospel is Lutheran because it represents Cranach’s pictorial translation of Luther’s unique understanding of salvation. Maleriet fortolker lovens, gode gerningesr, troens og nådens roller i menneskets forhold til Gud.
Essay by Dr. Bonnie Noble
Note: The Law and the Gospel is frequently called Law and Grace, a title which derives from a version of the painting in Prague (above), where the terms “Gesecz” (Law) and “Gnad” (Grace) are boldly painted and plainly visible.
*Bernard Lohse, Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work, Fortress Press, 1986.
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