Perspectives

As a lifelong Lutheran, I’ve been inculcated with a respect for Martin Luther, our denomination’s namesake, and the man responsible for the launch of the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century.  He’s usually portrayed as a firebrand for truth, or a reluctant hero, forced into opposition to the Roman Catholic Church he simply wished to help reform.  He’s no saint, of course.  His anti-semitic polemics are not generally discussed in Bible Study presentations of his life, and much of his rhetoric, which at times was, dare I say, over the top, is glossed over in favor of emphasizing his theological brilliance. 

Of course, not everyone finds him as compelling a hero.  Other protestant denominations feel that he remained to closely tied to Roman Catholic practices and traditions.  And of course, the Roman Catholics were not entirely enamored of him.  While there has been some willingness in certain quarters of Roman Catholic academia to revisit Luther with less of a polemical eye, there are others who still feel that he was thoroughly and completely in the wrong.

Such as this writer

I think it’s a good idea to listen to those who disagree with you about things, to better understand – and hopefully love – both your opponents and yourself.  I personally feel that this author makes rather light about the seriousness of guilt that pervades the Roman Catholic penitential system.  If one takes seriously the teachings  of the Church about sin, and about the necessity for Confession and Absolution as the sole means of mitigating those sins in this lifetime, then Luther’s reactions – while perhaps excessive compared to others – can hardly be ruled unfounded.  And to emphasize Luther’s guilt in contradistinction to the requirements of his particular Order is to really miss the larger issue.  Can one be callous or light in regards to one’s guilt, when one’s eternal destiny is tied to these things?  It would seem that the New Testament teachings on grace were lost in the larger Catholic system.  In an effort to create a system of daily, practical acts of piety (none of which are specifically Biblical in and of themselves)  the overarching atonement of Jesus Christ for all those who place their faith in Him is lost.  I would argue that it still is lost today, even as the Catholic Church places a renewed emphasis on indulgences of various kinds.


The writer also over-emphasizes Luther’s polemical statements after Luther’s initial efforts simply at dialogue were rebuffed by local Church and eventually Papal representatives.  If Luther is guilty of some overarching rhetoric that clearly seems misplaced, the Catholic Church ought to look to it’s own systems and procedures for handling calls for discussion and clarification from within itself.  Luther did not begin by seeking to overthrow bishops and the papacy.  He began by seeking dialogue.  As some Catholic academics are admitting, the Reformation might have been averted – or delayed, or substantively altered – had Luther’s concerns been granted proper hearing rather than being shuffled off as impertinent.

Still, a good, brief, accessible piece on how some Catholics view Martin Luther and his effects on the Church at large.

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