Skip to comments.Martin Luther's Very Mixed Legacy
Posted on 09/13/2017 9:46:56 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Next month, October 31st, will be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. Whether one thinks Luther was right or wrong, this was one of the most important events in history. Western Civilization was rent in half.
My views concerning Luther have gone all over the place during my lifetime, Was he a villain? Was he a hero? At times, I have held these diametrically opposed views. Now, I am of the opinion that he was a bit of both. Luther's chief attraction as a role model was that he was flawed. God was able to use a very flawed man to achieve a positive good. One did not have to be outwardly holy like a pope to do God's will -- and Luther proved it.
As time goes by, however, I am gravitating more to the opinion that the deity should have picked a better man to clean up Western Christianity.
One thing is clear: The Reformation was going to come, with or without Luther. The Czechs had already spawned the Hussite reformers, a century earlier. Wycliff, in the 14th century, had produced major changes in England. Meanwhile, Tyndale in England, Zwingli in Zurich, and Calvin in Geneva were contemporaries of Luther. Something was brewing. Luther may have been the catalyst to coalesce the movement, but he was not the indispensable man.
Luther's great breakthrough was to re-emphasize that man is reconciled to God through faith in the accomplished work of Christ on the cross, not through human effort. Catholic indulgences were out. Luther had been brought to this crisis and understanding by his study through Pauls epistle to the Romans.
(Excerpt) Read more at americanthinker.com ...
Luther's most infamous work was On the Jews and Their Lies. Luther, who could read Hebrew, had translated some religious Jewish texts, and found their discourse on Jesus and his mother quite horrifying. Had it been left at that, Luther could have engaged in intellectual debate to much good effect; but Luther publicly recommended a series of societal actions so severe that they read like Nazi legislation. Contemporary German Reformers were horrified at Luther's tirades.
- to burn down Jewish synagogues and schools and warn people against them;
- to refuse to let Jews own houses among Christians;
- for Jewish religious writings to be taken away;
- for rabbis to be forbidden to preach;
- to offer no protection to Jews on highways;
- for usury to be prohibited and for all silver and gold to be removed, put aside for safekeeping, and given back to Jews who truly convert; and
- to give young, strong Jews flail, axe, spade, and spindle, and let them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow. -- Wikipedia
This was no mere rant. Luther's writings would embed themselves in German culture so strongly that even the Roman Catholic Adolf Hitler would list Luther as one of his favorite Germans in Mein Kampf.
My pastor and I were just discussing Luther while we were at the Diamondbacks game last night. My pastor is a history buff with the emphasis on church history. His take was that Luther “cracked” under the strain during the last five years of his life. Most of the stuff he did incompatible with Christian views; e.g., anti-semitism, occurred during this period.
Most, if not all, Lutheran synods have repudiated Luther's comments/attacks on the Jewish People.
Here is the response from the LCMS on their FAQ.
QUESTION: What is the Missouri Synod's response to the anti-Semitic statements made by Luther?
ANSWER: While The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod holds Martin Luther in high esteem for his bold proclamation and clear articulation of the teachings of Scripture, it deeply regrets and deplores statements made by Luther which express a negative and hostile attitude toward the Jews.
In light of the many positive and caring statements concerning the Jews made by Luther throughout his lifetime, it would not be fair on the basis of these few regrettable (and uncharacteristic) negative statements, to characterize the reformer as “a rabid anti-Semite.”
The LCMS, however, does not seek to “excuse” these statements of Luther, but it denounces them (without denouncing Luther's theology). In 1983, the Synod adopted an official resolution addressing these statements of Luther and making clear its own position on anti-Semitism.
The text of this resolution reads as follows:
WHEREAS, Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism are a continuing problem in our world; and
WHEREAS, Some of Luther's intemperate remarks about the Jews are often cited in this connection; and
WHEREAS, It is widely but falsely assumed that Luther's personal writings and opinions have some official status among us (thus, sometimes implying the responsibility of contemporary Lutheranism for those statements, if not complicity in them); but also
WHEREAS, It is plain from Scripture that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all people that is, to Jews also, no more and no less than to others (Matt. 28:18-20); and
WHEREAS, This scriptural mandate is sometimes confused with anti-Semitism; therefore be it
Resolved, That we condemn any and all discrimination against others on account of race or religion or any coercion on that account and pledge ourselves to work and witness against such sins; and be it further
Resolved, That we reaffirm that the bases of our doctrine and practice are the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and not Luther, as such; and be it further
Resolved, That while, on the one hand, we are deeply indebted to Luther for his rediscovery and enunciation of the Gospel, on the other hand, we deplore and disassociate ourselves from Luther's negative statements about the Jewish people, and, by the same token, we deplore the use today of such sentiments by Luther to incite anti-Christian and/or anti-Lutheran sentiment; and be it further
Resolved, That in our teaching and preaching we take care not to confuse the religion of the Old Testament (often labeled “Yahwism”) with the subsequent Judaism, nor misleadingly speak about “Jews” in the Old Testament (”Israelites” or “Hebrews” being much more accurate terms), lest we obscure the basic claim of the New Testament and of the Gospel to being in substantial continuity with the Old Testament and that the fulfillment of the ancient promises came in Jesus Christ; and be it further
Resolved, That we avoid the recurring pitfall of recrimination (as illustrated by the remarks of Luther and many of the early church fathers) against those who do not respond positively to our evangelistic efforts; and be it finally
Resolved, That, in that light, we personally and individually adopt Luther's final attitude toward the Jewish people, as evidenced in his last sermon: “We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord” (Weimar edition, Vol. 51, p. 195).
Thanks for this insight. It makes a lot of sense. The shift is still tragic, but it’s at least more understandable.
Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians:not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.
Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.
Luthers Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391
He lost is daughter and went into a great depression(which he fought most of his life). docemntary did a great job on all of luther good and bad. Most interesting, as Hitler was using Luther’s writings to justify their anti sementim, a black pastor studied Luther. He changed his name and his sons’ name to Martin Luther as he was inspired by Luther non violence to make change.
The last twenty or thirty comments at American Thinker were a descent into rabid antisemitism. It used to be that it took a few drinks with people trusted and thought receptive for a modern anti-Semite to reveal himself. Now a lot of them do so brazenly while apparently sober.
American Thinker is a dandy website, but that’s a $hitty title. Even PBS was much more favorable to the Gospel than this title.
Is the author a Romanist or an Enthusiast (Zwinglian)? I’m not going to read an article with such a dumb title.
Very mixed my a$$. Like PBS said, love him or hate him.
He had kidney stones and bowl troubles late in life. Not excusing it, but he was pretty miserable at that point.
There is a shift in Luther’s writing at that time. Some of it was probably disappointment as the very wars he hoped to prevent started to erupt around him.
His daughters, wife’s, and best friends deaths put him into a spiral of depression that he could not shake. A flawed human who inspired the reformation and both Mahatma Gandhi and MLK...unfortunately he helped Hitler justify his madness.
What black pastor is that?
If you're referring to Michael King, he was no pastor.
He was a plagiarizing, communist, useful idiot who liked to punch and torture white prostitutes as he was having sex with them, and he never attended any type of divinity school.
The reference was to M. King Sr, not Jr.
Luther’s writing that I remember most delineated his humility, as he referred to himself as a ‘foul bag of maggots.’
I think He used the best man out there as I think God does everything for the best.
Luther may have been the only one willing, qualified, or obedient.
Maybe the author ought to gravitate towards understanding that he ISN'T God and change his opinion to knowing that God uses others to accomplish HIS purposes.
You won't find any Evangelicals defending Luther's later contempt for the Jews. But to blame him for being the one to influence Hitler and his pogroms is not being honest. Before Luther ever developed his negative feelings towards Jewish apostates and those who by usury and scams took advantage of Christians, there was the Roman Catholic church and her numerous Popes through the ages who started it all. You can read about some of that HERE.
Thanks for that. I wonder if there is anything similar from the Roman Catholic church repudiating their long history of anti-Semitism? Luther certainly didn’t start it all.
Maybe the author ought to gravitate towards understanding that he ISN’T God and change his opinion to knowing that God uses others to accomplish HIS purposes.
If everything God uses was perfect he would not have needed the reformation because the Catholic Church which God also set up would have been perfect.