Tag Archives: Martin Luther

Luther’s “Utterly Improbable” Career Shown in New Biography

Lyndal Roper has a new scholarly biography on Martin Luther’s “utterly improbable” life.

Roper took ten years to write this book, which the NY Times calls, ” a fresh and deeply illuminating study of the man who somewhat reluctantly divided a continent.”

Roper is especially good on Luther’s unusual upbringing as the son of a mining family. It was a hard life, full of risk; they lived well, but always one bad business decision away from disaster. Young Martin knew that the price of his education was an investment in the family’s future, and how much his decision to abandon his legal studies in favor of a church career would disrupt his father’s plans.

But reviewer Melanie Gilbert suggests Roper crops out the full picture. “When read for its smaller insights – his prolific letter writing, for instance – this book offers a rewarding look at a specific time and place in history. But in a story where the Gutenberg printing press isn’t even mentioned, and the English Reformation gets only a one-page mention, the larger importance of Luther’s life is lost in translation.” (via Prufrock News)

He Who Waits For the Best Time to Act

The hobbit at his table
The hobbit at his table

One of my life quotes, which I wish I could say I’ve actually given proper attention, is a verse from a song in the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit.

“A man who’s a dreamer and never takes leave,
Who lives in a world that is just make-believe,
Will never know passion, will never know pain.
Who sits by the window will one day see rain.”

It’s a Glenn Yarbrough song, which you can hear here.

That verse is loosely related to a quote attributed by some to Martin Luther. “For truth and duty it is ever the fitting time; who waits until circumstances completely favor his undertaking, will never accomplish anything.” As our readers often say, “That’s the truth,” but did Luther actually say this?

The Quote Investigator doesn’t believe he did and has evidence to support his belief that another German theologian with a curiously similar name is the one who first put this thought (in his own words) on paper.

Luther Documentary Kickstarter

On October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther posted ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg church, intending to invite debate on the doctrine of indulgences and its implication. Next year is the 500th anniversary of that decision.

LUTHER Official Teaser Trailer from Stephen McCaskell on Vimeo.

Now, the makers of the film Through the Eyes of Spurgeon are raising money to fund their production of a documentary on Luther.

The Reformation: Here to stay

This morning, in an e-mail discussion I participate in, someone lamented the Reformation. They wished and hoped we could all come together again soon.

That’s a nice dream, and I applaud the sentiment. But in my view it’ll never happen.

Here’s the thing — who’s going to be in charge of this new universal church?

The pope? Then how will you force all the Christians who think the pope is the Antichrist into your church?

Local congregations? How will you persuade the people who think an episcopacy is necessary?

You won’t be able to do this without some kind of coercive force. A new Inquisition.

And I don’t think even Catholics want that.

Besides which, the divisions are far deeper and more complex than just Rome vs. Wittenberg.

The divisions in Christianity go way beyond denominations. I have Catholic friends to whom I am far closer, in the fundamentals, than I am with many of my Lutheran friends.

Even if you somehow shoehorned all the denominations into your new World Church, the conservative vs. liberal divisions would persist.

And would probably, if history is any guide, lead to new institutional divisions.

91 New Theses Opposing Modern Heresy

Earlier this year, I was going over Martin Luther’s 95 theses, and it occurred to me that many of them apply to the teachings we call the prosperity gospel. The comparison isn’t exact, of course. Prosperity teachers may be popular, but they aren’t part of the majority church as were the teachers Luther opposed. And if you remember from reading Luther’s list, he gives the Pope all due respect, suggesting that he is being misrepresented, not that he is teaching heresy himself. We can’t say that for the preachers of the prosperity gospel.

Here’s my list, taken from and based on Luther’s original–and four theses short. You see today’s Wittenberg doors on the right. They’re bronze, so we’ll have to post new theses with sticky tack. You’ll also see that several of the theses here are Luther’s own statements, taken from this translation.

No doubt, the spirit of Luther will pull me out of bed tonight, knock me in the head, and rebuke me until daybreak for pulling this stunt. I hope it doesn’t offend you and bore only some of you. Hope you continue to have a good and holy All Saint’s Day.

91 New Theses for the Modern Church

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to living your best life now, i.e. positive thinking, as taught by some preachers.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of sinful self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. Preachers of “kingdom prosperity” have neither the will nor the power to remit the penalty of sin.
  6. They cannot remit guilt, but only ignore or excuse it because original sin and Christ’s atoning work are not in their view.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to Christ.
  8. The promises of God apply only to followers of Christ Jesus, those who have been raised to life from a spiritual stillbirth.
  9. Mere fandom for a church or preacher does not qualify anyone to be particularly blessed by the Lord of Hosts.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when mere fans of a church claim statements from the Word of God as particular promises for their personal lives.
  11. When preachers encourage their followers to claim particular promises, instead of repentance, surely it would seem that tares were sown among their congregations.
  12. Continue reading 91 New Theses Opposing Modern Heresy

Luther, Martin Luther. I’m an Art Critic

The IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art)Daniel Siedell, a Christian art critic and curator, writes, “While finishing my doctoral dissertation and teaching modern art at a state university in the mid-1990s, I read Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible and H.R. Rookmaaker’s Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, and I was shocked. Their conclusions about modern art bore no resemblance to the work I had devoted years of my life to understanding from within the history and development of modern art.”

He finds a path toward a theology of art with from Martin Luther and writes about it in his book God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Cultural Exegesis). This reminds me a Mars Hill Audio interview this year, which I’m too lazy at the moment to look up and link for you. Do I have to do all the work around here? (via Cranach)

Luther on Meditating on Christ’s Suffering

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

[Some] so sympathize with Christ as to weep and lament for him because he was so innocent, like the women who followed Christ from Jerusalem, whom he rebuked, in that they should better weep for themselves and for their children. Such are they who run far away in the midst of the Passion season, and are greatly benefitted by the departure of Christ from Bethany and by the pains and sorrows of the Virgin Mary, but they never get farther. Hence they postpone the Passion many hours, and God only knows whether it is devised more for sleeping than for watching. And among these fanatics are those who taught what great blessings come from the holy mass, and in their simple way they think it is enough if they attend mass. To this we are led through the sayings of certain teachers, that the mass opere operati, non opere operantis, is acceptable of itself, even without our merit and worthiness, just as if that were enough. Nevertheless the mass was not instituted for the sake of its own worthiness, but to prove us, especially for the purpose of meditating upon the sufferings of Christ. For where this is not done, we make a temporal, unfruitful work out of the mass, however good it may be in itself. For what help is it to you, that God is God, if he is not God to you? What benefit is it that eating and drinking are in themselves healthful and good, if they are not healthful for you, and there is fear that we never grow better by reason of our many masses, if we fail to seek the true fruit in them?

… St. Bernard was so terror-stricken by Christ’s sufferings that he said: I imagined I was secure and I knew nothing of the eternal judgment passed upon me in heaven, until I saw the eternal Son of God took mercy upon me, stepped forward and offered himself on my behalf in the same judgment.