Culture At Large

Martin Luther: Christian hero... and ordinary guy

Andy Rau

With Halloween Reformation Day right around the corner, here's an interesting post about moments of spiritual doubt and frustration in Martin Luther's life. While we usually focus on Luther's epic theological contributions, it's easy to overlook the fact that, far from being an unearthly saint who lived a blessed life, Luther struggled for years with depression, arthritis, and other painful ailments:

Luther recovered [from health problems that nearly killed him], but his physical condition continued only to become worse from this point. This physical weakness brought on serious bouts of depression. This melancholy would accompany Luther throughout his life. As he struggled with failing health, he would at times wish for death to release him from the pain brought on by intense headaches, dizziness, arthritis, digestion problems, infections, and uric acid stones, to name only some of his maladies. In his pain, he questioned whether or not God had abandoned him. [...]

Some may be surprised to read these words by Luther. How could a man who stood alone against the Catholic Church and Roman Empire show such a lack of faith?

The point, as the post suggests, is that it's not realistic to imagine that Luther (or any other Christian "hero") was an unshakable pillar of faith every moment of every day. I'm reminded of the widespread buzz earlier this year when it was learned that Mother Teresa experienced moments of (gasp!) doubt and frustration as well. It's worth remembering that even the most devout life of Christian service will not magically transform one into a perfect person. And that God can bring about mighty, world-changing good through the lives of humans who are flawed, imperfect, and, well, human.

And while we're talking about humanizing Luther and his fellow Reformers, the Internet Monk has a recent post up suggesting that Protestants step back and adopt a more nuanced, realistic view of the Reformation. He makes some good points. But don't let that stop you from donning your Martin Luther costume this week and trick-or-treating teaching the kids at Sunday school about the great minds of the Reformation.

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, History, Media