Monday, February 23, 2009

Luther's Legacy

Nobody's perfect...I was reminded of that fact last week with the celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. In the midst of celebrating the "Great Emancipator" we were reminded from several sources that Lincoln had some very bad things to say about African Americans and their fate (for many years he wanted to deport them to Liberia).

Pastor John Piper wrote last week as well about Lincoln's failures and the fact that all earthly heroes will fail us. You can read the article here.

I was reminded of that truth again this week as I finished reading Roland H. Bainton's biography of Martin Luther, called "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther".

Luther's legacy is truly staggering...leader of the Protestant Reformation, translator of the Bible into German, proponent of justification by faith....yet there was also a negative side to Luther as well. Unlike Lincoln who had some progression in his thinking of others, Luther's screeds became worse as he aged. Regarding the Pope, Luther was quite quick to call him the Anti-Christ. Regarding Jews, Luther had some very negative opinions. Bainton, Luther's biographer, notes that he wished Luther would have died earlier so that his anti-Semitic views would not have been known.

Regarding his positive contributions, Luther is unequaled. Here's how Bainton describes the work of Luther and his influence on Germans:

"The most profound impact of Luther on his people was in their religion. His sermons were read to the congregations, his liturgy was sung, his catechism was rehearsed by the father with the household, his Bible cheered the fainthearted and consoled the dying."

Compared to the Protestant Reformation in England, Bainton notes that there was not a similar character:
"The Bible translation in England was the work of Tyndale, the prayer book of Cranmer, the catechism of the Westminster divines. The sermonic style stemmed from Latimer; the hymnbook came from Watts. And not all of these lived in one century. Luther did the work of more than five men. And for sheer richness and exuberance of vocabulary and mastery of style he is to be compared only with Shakespeare."
I encourage you read Luther's biography...even though he was an imperfect man. He was a man who doubted, but a man who also had incredible faith...a faith that allowed him to say before the Emperor: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."


No comments: