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)
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.
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.
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
- When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
- The word cannot be properly understood as referring to living your best life now, i.e. positive thinking, as taught by some preachers.
- 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.
- 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.
- Preachers of “kingdom prosperity” have neither the will nor the power to remit the penalty of sin.
- They cannot remit guilt, but only ignore or excuse it because original sin and Christ’s atoning work are not in their view.
- God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to Christ.
- The promises of God apply only to followers of Christ Jesus, those who have been raised to life from a spiritual stillbirth.
- Mere fandom for a church or preacher does not qualify anyone to be particularly blessed by the Lord of Hosts.
- 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.
- When preachers encourage their followers to claim particular promises, instead of repentance, surely it would seem that tares were sown among their congregations.
Continue reading 91 New Theses Opposing Modern Heresy