Where Have all the Luthers Gone?

You’ve gotta love a Martin Luther pumpkin. Why? Because today isn’t just Halloween. It’s Reformation Day! So today, let’s not just hand out the candy. Let’s ask a poignant question. Where have all the Luthers gone–those who have enough courage to stand up to power, conventional wisdom, and heresy? I know there are some Luthers around. All over the world and especially overseas, Christians are willing to suffer persecution for the name of Christ. Today in particular, I’m thankful for them.

Luthers are willing to challenge church tradition with what is actually in the Bible. They are willing to do something other than continue sick systems or other mutations of true Christianity. People like Martin Luther will look the Pope straight in the face, respectfully, and say, “I cannot recant.”

But, Luther wasn’t just some anti-authoritarian, protestester monk. He was conscientious, intelligent, spiritually deep, and offered his objections in service of the Church. He didn’t try to ruin the Church. He wanted to reform the church. And, he did. All Christians today have been impacted my Martin Luther, whether they want to admit it or not.

Obviously, we don’t follow Luther. We follow Jesus. Luther certainly wasn’t right on all points of doctrine, and some of his latter day teachings got off-track as his health deteriorated. Nevertheless, Luther was right on many things that matter most: Grace as the source of salvation; the authority of Scripture; the limits of church tradition, despite it’s benefits; and that Christianity requires the courage to suffer marginalization–even from other “Christians” when the Gospel demands it.

To learn more about Reformation Day, click here.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, here is a clip of Joseph Fiennes playing Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in the movie Luther.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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5 thoughts on “Where Have all the Luthers Gone?

  1. (but if you’re talking about the *spirit* of martin luther, to stand up and criticize when others within a majority think it is impolite and/or incorrect, then he is alive and well in scholarship today like he was then 😉

    • Good comments, Bob. I think some scholars do fit the “spirit” of Luther. However, it would also be fair to argue the academy has it’s own orthodoxy that few in it’s ranks have the courage to challenge.

  2. to follow up on jenny’s comment:

    by moving the book of james (which he despised) from the canonical order to just after jude with the hopes that those reading through the nt as part of the lectionary cycle would quit before getting to it.

    but to answer your question, luther has increasingly been dismissed along with the rest of the anti-semites. he overemphasized grace (corrupting paul’s already questionable de-emphasis of service to others, defining them as ‘works of the law’) and underemphasized service and good works (explaining his hatred of james and peter). only now is xnty finally beginning to right itself from this skewed notion that simply calling on the name of jesus can save you. not even jesus agrees with or taught that.

    that (and the fact that he was a rabid anti-semite) is where luther has gone.

  3. Jenny, don’t know if you have concrete examples, but if so, feel free to list them. I can’t think of any, though I can think of places where I don’t agree with him on how he interpreted passages.