Martin Luther: The Good and The Bad

Happy Hallow…I mean Reformation Day.  Just 491 years ago, Martin Luther, upset at indulgences of the church, posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg, Germany setting the Reformation in motion.  His theology put importance on the Bible as the only infallible source of religious authority and the fact all baptized Christians have universal priesthood, meaning a direct relationship with God.

As Christians, I think we would agree the reformation was a good thing.  Luther did other great things in his life, including writing hymns and translating the Bible.  But along with the good came some bad.  Historians say Luther was an antisemite who believed Jews' homes should be destroyed, their synagogues burned and their money confiscated.  Luther showed compassion for Jews, accordning to historians, but only to try to convert them.

So where does that leave us?  Do you denounce a man who did great things because some of his personal beliefs were hateful?  In today's culture it's not uncommon to see the media focus on one part of a person's life and paint it as an extreme.  Actors, politicians and Joe the Plumber is either all good, or all bad.  But God sees all of us and all of our sides.  Even though we have bad pieces, can't God still use us for good?  Afterall, in Romans 3:23, the Bible says "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard."

What do you think?

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I think reformed Christians do tend to idolise Luther, to the detriment of their own knowledge. I believe the reasons the Catholics disliked his translations were because he left out entire sections that disagreed with his theology (Revelation, for example). All the things you speak of. The fact that his problem with indulgences was with the simony (or the selling of them) by the corrupt church officials, and not with the doctrines of indulgence or purgatory. He’s a different man than the one many imagine him to be.

But that’s not to say he wasn’t a tool in God’s plan. And it’s not to say that he didn’t have a sincere heart for Christ.

God is the only judge. Its hard to forgive a great sin committed against you, like murder, rape, just as it is hard to love your enemies…. But we are commanded to do so, as such, we are called to be forceful and loving at the same time. To be in control in God is how I describe it; rebuke and disagree in a loving way…. the road to heaven is not the easiest of all the roads out there.
We must stop shunning but rather tell the truth to our Catholic brothers while they must give everybody a chance by listenning to their protestant brothers, for we are blessed to agree on the most important and vital truth that christ is the one and only God.
As for the great Martin Luther, he was a sinner like all of us, yet another truth which re-affirms, as the bible says, that no one but God is to be worshipped.
We all fall short. That is why we need him.

While I do not hold up Martin Luther as a capital “S” saint (and neither did he, his writing often sounded like the apostle Paul, read Romans 7) I also think historians may have gotten it wrong on his view of Jews. A good book on this topic is “The Fabricated Luther” by Uwe Siemon-Netto (….

praise the lord

This sort of reminds of the the hoopla over Mike Guglielmucci and the song Healer. If you haven’t heard about it Mike basically wrote the song Healer as worship to God in his battle with cancer. Turns out Mike never had cancer and has been living a lie for the past few years as well as admitted battling an addiction to pornography. Many people wrestled with what to do with the song: keep playing it because it is a wonderful song that speaks of God’s power to heal or drop it because it was written in sin and deceit? Fred McKinnon wrote an awesome response (in my opinion) to the issue over at The Worship Community. read it at http://www.theworshipcommunity…

anyways, he concluded (in not so many words) that God is constantly in the business of using sinful people to further His kingdom here on earth. We need only look from Moses to David, to Paul and a number of people in between to see that that is exactly how God works. And of course we are always to remember that we all fall short of the glory of God yet he still uses us despite ourselves. I personally think that Luther was antisemitic and undoubtedly a sinner, but that doesn’t negate God’s use of him to develop the church.

Don’t say “historians say” so it sounds like it’s just their opinion.  It’s not a matter of opinion - Luther wrote and preached at one point that these things should be done to Jews.  He may have believed differently at one point but when he wrote it and said it we’ve got to believe he meant it.

  I must start by saying I am not a historian and the following is only a guess.  But from what I understand, Luther first reached out to Jewish people with the gospel.  It was largely rejected.  Then, it was later in life that he wrote an anti-Semitic text.  (He also became extremely negative towards the pope and Catholicism.)
  So, how do you feel when you reach out to someone with the gospel, but they reject it?  What if they have arguments that you find difficult to defeat?  Do you ever get defensive and bitter?  I don’t know if that’s what happened to Luther, but I know it happens to me.  I don’t mean to justify Luther, but I remember that I am capable of the same evil.  This reminds me to throw myself at God’s feet and depend on Him to transform me.

I would love to see the text of Luther’s sermon or writing that he said these things against Jews - it is helpful to see the words of Luther in context. Do you know where we can find these sources? In Luther’s Works, on the web, etc?

Where do you find that Luther left out Scripture texts in his German translation - it has been used to this day and has Revelation and from what I can tell all of the texts we have in today’s Bible - what is the source of this claim.
Also, where is the source of Luther sill believing in indulgences and purgatory? From what I understand these were huge issues with him and the Roman Catholic church and what the 95 Thesis addressed. Can you point to source material for your views?

I have concluded that the most important contribution made by Martin Luther is that he broke the power of the Bishops of Rome, and their bureaucracy, to wield criminal and secular law over European Christianity. The debate about grace vs. good works was merely an instrument. True, indulgences were an evil innovation, as was the theology behind them. But as we move in time from that battle, perspective shows us that both grace and good works have a place in the Gospels, and in salvation, not because our works have merit, but because it is important that we do them.

I have been inspired more by the teaching of John Wycliffe, who really laid the foundations for Christians to disagree on silly things like doctrine, because we have no earthly overlord but Jesus, we each have a direct line to God, and we must each read and understand Scripture for ourselves. Before Luther, Christians who departed from Roman rule, such as the Albigensians, were slaughtered. Wycliffe, although unmolested during his lifetime, was taken from his grave to be burned by a later inquisition. Calvin, although no Lutheran, benefited from the reduced power of Rome, resulting from Luther’s stand. I am more Methodist than Lutheran, more sympathetic to congregational church governance than any bishops or councils, but without Luther, the heavy secular hand of the Popes might still stifle and oppress us all. Even the subsequent history of the Roman church has been blessed by the need to recreate itself in response to the Reformation.

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