Thursday, February 1, 2018

The revolutionary Luther. . .

In an article clipped from a newspaper, a member passed on a perspective on Luther (from a non-Lutheran academic) that conveniently forgets the faith and puts Luther in the position of culture warrior.  According to this article, Luther is responsible for fostering a democratic approach to religious belief -- whatever that means.  It sounds like Luther suggested we voted on what is doctrine, what is the teaching of Scripture.  Ahhhh, fail.  Luther never put his conscience or anyone's conscience above the Word of God nor did he ever conceive of a democratic approach to what is believed, taught, and confessed.

In the same article, it is said Luther introduced a radical egalitarianism that formed the foundation for modern democracy and human rights.  Well, if he did, Luther did not realize that this is what he was doing.  In fact, Luther was a confirmed monarchist and did not believe in protecting the rights of those who challenged order (take a look at Luther's response to the Peasants' Revolt).  Surely Luther is responsible for being a conscience to the royal order and to the peasants on the other end of the spectrum but Luther had no idea of modern democratic structure, government, or human rights.

According to the article, Luther's view of the priesthood of all believers single-handedly replaced church heirarchy with an idea that the ministry is secondary and all people are priests of equal standing.  Again, the author is mingling different things.  Luther did nothing to diminish the office of the ministry even as he recovered the idea of Christian vocation that was not exclusive to the clergy.

Again the article suggested that Luther was uniquely responsible for the elevation of the individual and the individual conscience above every other authority.  But Luther insists his conscience is not free but captive to the Word of God.  The modern idea that has produced a limitless number of popes with authority to determine what the Word of God says or does not say did not have its source in Luther. Luther was not the source of individual empowerment in which the Law has no place nor could the duty to the neighbor be ignored.  This was no spiritual bill of rights to be claimed or demanded but the duty of freedom and the obligation of liberty on how freedom was to be lived out before God.

Luther was a man of many words and not all of them moderate or pious and yet it is unfair to him to make him responsible for our modern ideas of individualism, freedom from the law, democratic forms within the Church or state, or the abolition of liturgical or ministerial authority.  But then again we live in an age in which if we think it, it must be true so I am sure we have not heard the last of what Luther is responsible for. . .


Anonymous said...

Rent-A-Luther: One size fits all.

Carl Vehse said...

The author of the October 26, 2017, WSJ article, "How Martin Luther Advanced Freedom:The Reformation brought a radical egalitarianism to Christendom," is Joseph Loconte, a history professor at The King's College in New York City. Loconte also provides in the media commentary on religion and public life.

The WSJ site requires a subscription to read, but the article can also be seen at this Political Forum site, 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Loconte also wrote a National Geographic article, "Martin Luther and the Long March to Freedom of Conscience," which can be read on the internet.

Carl Vehse said...

Loconte, a rabid NeverTrumpista, also wrote a year ago, "The Times: Making America great again means welcoming Muslims."

Pray for this man's King's College students.