Martin Luther on Trial


Any actors among my readers? If so, any of you ever itched to play Satan, Hitler, or Johann Tetzel? How about the greater Reformer Martin Luther? Or his wife, perhaps? A call went out a couple of weeks ago: auditions for a new play starring Max McLean called The Trial of Martin Luther. It’s being staged by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts.

My friend John W. Kennedy has an interview with McClean (whose voice you will hear when you play Bible Gateway’s audio scripture of the day).

MAX McCLEAN: Fellowship for Performing Art’s mission is to produce theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience.  We do that by carefully selecting material that, we think, has the ability to reach across the cultural spectrum. Then we execute it to the highest levels that our budgets can afford. Finally we ask people to help us do it.  That’s why we are called Fellowship for Performing Arts. It’s a fellowship of people who believe that art and theatre from a Christian worldview can engage the moral imagination.

As to FPA’s beginning, I was already a theatre artist before I converted to Christianity.  My imagination was captured.  I wanted to know more of it and see if I could integrate my faith into my work.  In order to do that at the level of excellence I wanted, I had to raise funds.  So we incorporated as a non-profit theater company. …

JWK: In February, you’re presenting an original production called Martin Luther on Trial, which you wrote with Chris Cragin-Day. Can you tell me something about that and the point of view it takes on Martin Luther?

MM: Martin Luther on Trial examines Luther’s legacy in the light of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Lucifer is the prosecuting attorney, Luther’s wife Kate acts for the defense, St. Peter is on the bench. The called witnesses are Hitler, Freud, Hans Luther, Rabbi Yosel and Martin Luther King, Jr. We have Pope Francis making an appearance in our play.  It’s a risky endeavor but we have a development process of readings, labs, workshops to make sure it is ready.This will be a development production.  It will not be open for review.  We plan to bring it back in the fall.

My reason for commissioning this play is to look at the inherent scandal of a divided Christianity. All Christians should be humble and charitable about the events that led to the Protestant Reformation or Revolt (depending on your point of view). If we can’t humble ourselves who can? Theatre is a good place for an audience of Protestants, Catholics and those of other beliefs to explore and dialogue about this controversial subject.

McLean was a member of Redeemer Presbyterian when I was a member there, and often would deliver the Scripture readings in his mellifluous baritone. My wife and I saw The Screwtape Letters with McLean Off-Broadway (tickets were a birthday gift from JWK, as it so happens); he’s an enormously talented and spirited actor.

By the by, how many of you know that Luther actually wrote Tetzel post-1517, after the indulgence peddler had been thrown under the bus by the public and ecclesiastical higher-ups? Want to know what Brother Martin said to the man who became the poster-child for works-righteousness?


In short, “Grace to you.”



Luther to Enter Rome, Again


Oh, sure, now

Next month a hilltop square in Rome is due to be named Piazza Martin Lutero, in memory of Luther’s achievements. The site chosen is the Oppian Hill, a park area that overlooks the Colosseum.

The move has been six years in a making, following a request made by the Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant denomination, Italian daily La Repubblica said. The original plan was to inaugurate the square in time for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s historic trip to Rome in 2010. City officials were not able to discuss the process behind naming the square or the reason for the holdup.

Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.

The move contrasts sharply from views held by Luther around the time of his visit to Rome, when it was said he repeated the saying“If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.”

I’m sure he was not speaking literally, as in a historical-grammatical sense, but more in the “Where is my damn espresso?” sense…

If you know anything about Seventh-day Adventists, other than that they forbid the drinking of coffee, which is a sure sign of cultic practice, and not in a good way, like in the Brotherhood of the Sacred Bean, Caffeinated, of which I am treasurer, they have a special affection for Luther, even though he would have denounced their theology in no uncertain terms, or, rather, in certain terms, none of which are repeatable on a family blog. (The Seventh-dayers remain the only denomination that formally teaches soul-sleep, or psychopannychism, which does not refer to someone who’s ga-ga for sliced bread. It is an idea Luther toyed with early, as did Tyndale, but I believe jettisoned eventually.)

Now here’s an idea: why not lift the excommunication while you’re at it? If Pope Francis really wants to make a splash on the ecumenical scene, how about issuing a retraction on October 31, 1517 (assuming his enemies haven’t spiked his amaretto by then). I mean, can you really trust anything signed by Leo X? Sure, he loved music and was a “cultured hedonist” and all that, but he was also, according to David Hume, probably too intelligent to believe Catholic doctrine. So who was he to judge?

I say call another council, this time invite confessional Protestant theologians, and fight it out again. May the better theology win.

Until then, and in a spirit of irenic ecumenicity, I give you an essay by Fr. George Rutler, on the history of pews. Fr. Rutler used to write a monthly column called “Coincidentally” in which he packed an extraordinary amount of history into relatively few words by finding the strange, consequential, and amusing coincidences that make history fun. In his last column under that title, he left us with this:

In a financial coincidence, the $25 million paid by the United States to Colombia in 1921 as compensation for the loss of Colombia’s onetime colony, Panama (the United States had been involved in Panama’s rebellion), was identical to the price the United States had paid to Denmark for its portion of the Virgin Islands in 1917. The rapacious exactions of the Colombian generals with respect to Panama provoked President Theodore Roosevelt to use a pejorative term for people of Spanish extraction. The preliminary negotiations for the Virgin Islands were begun in 1867, the centenary year of the birth of Roosevelt’s great-granduncle, Nicholas J. Roosevelt, the inventor of a vertical paddle wheel. He applied for a patent for his wheel in 1813, the birth year of Søren Kierkegaard, who wrote his Fear and Trembling for Régine Olson, the daughter of a Danish governor of the Virgin Islands.

He who is not conscious of history, if not dead, might as well be. When asked in 1892, at the age of four, how he occupied himself during fits of insomnia, little Ronald Knox (later to become one of England’s greatest Catholic converts) replied: “I lie awake and think about the past.” The same story was told of the boy George Augustus, who became King George II of England in 1727. That strange coincidence, spanning two centuries, is probably fascinating only to this writer among all the billions of people now living—which is itself a coincidence.

For the record, I attended many a service at Our Saviour on Park Avenue when Fr. Rutler was senior pastor there and celebrated, or so it seemed to me, Mass every single day. He revitalized that congregation mightily, and the liturgy was a wonder to behold: a joyful mix of Latin and English, with hymns, incense, reverence, and awe to stop the pie hole of a Richard Dawkins. I was actually drawn to convert, and was in RCIA not once but twice. Beauty will do that to you.

Of course, bishops being what they are, Fr. Rutler was given the boot from Our Saviour and transferred to St. Michael’s on West 34th Street. One might say such “trades” come with the territory, “term limits” and all that, were it not for the fact that Our Saviour is in the process of being denuded and St. Michael’s is on the chopping block. Every time I think Rome may hold the key to stability, I think of this (and other things, of course) and slap myself.

Who Can Forgive Whose Sins?


So I logged on to the Mockingbird blog today and went searching for audio from their annual NYC Conference, seeing as it featured this year a Lutherany Presbyterian (Tullian Tchividjian) and a mainliny Lutheran (Nadia Bolz-Weber), which I thought would yield some interesting MP4age. The Mockingbirders are themselves low-churchy Anglicany Episcs,* as opposed to mainliny Episcs or Anglo-Catholicy Episcs, or for that matter continuing Anglicans, who can also be broken down into those who follow the “Affirmation of St. Louis” and Sydney Anglicans and evangelical Anglicans. A chart will be forthcoming to help with these distinctions but don’t expect it anytime soon because who has that kind of time.

I listened to this clip of the talk given by Bolz-Weber. It’s three minutes long, so put down the sausage and focus.

Did you listen? Now, put aside your feelings about Bolz-Weber’s ministry, whether women can/should be ordained, whether the ELCA is a legitimate expression of Lutheranism, how much turmeric is too much in a nicely balanced muttar paneer, etc. I want to concentrate just on what she said, specifically this:

“Jesus talked about forgiveness all the time. And he told people ‘Do this thing in my name,’ right? And so we have the authority to do this for each other in Jesus’ name.”

Do we? In the anecdote she relates just before this, she offered the forgiveness of sins as a “called and ordained minister of the Word” — don’t go there, I asked you nicely not to go there, get away from there now or I swear I will come to your home and break all best china. FOCUS.

Some questions come to mind (at least to my mind — you, on the other hand, may have this all worked out as you sit there posing decisively in your nicely blocked Hat of Authority and magisterial khakis):

(1) Do we, the laity, have this authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins, in Jesus’ name, to a guilt-ridden person? 

(2) Does that guilt-ridden person have to be a Christian? Or does the Lutheran doctrine of universal objective justification cover even a non-Christian?

(3) Does the guilt-ridden person have to make an explicit confession of sins (even if, as the catechism notes, not every sin must be described or recounted)? Does the person have to be, in some sense, truly penitent? Or does he or she merely have to feel guilty or burdened in some way, and therefore be open to some “relief,” to receive the forgiveness of sins?

(4) If the person must confess their sins, and acknowledge them, presumably as sins and not mere “mistakes,” does this put a condition on the forgiveness of sins? And does mere confession cut it? Does the Lutheran construal of absolution insist upon some kind of contrition, regardless of its “intensity”?

I know the answers to some of these questions already, but I thought this would be a nice teachable moment for non-Lutherans.

This is from the “Brief Admonition to Confession,” which is attached to some editions of the Large Catechism. Hear Herr Luther (emphasis mine, because I’m always emphasizing stuff):

In the first place, I have said that besides the Confession here being considered there are two other kinds, which may even more properly be called the Christians’ common confession. They are (a) the confession and plea for forgiveness made to God alone and (b) the confession that is made to the neighbor alone. These two kinds of confession are included in the Lord’s Prayer, in which we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12), and so on. In fact, the entire Lord’s Prayer is nothing else than such a confession. For what are our petitions other than a confession that we neither have nor do what we ought, as well as a plea for grace and a cheerful conscience? Confession of this sort should and must continue without letup as long as we live. For the Christian way essentially consists in acknowledging ourselves to be sinners and in praying for grace.

Similarly, the other of the two confessions, the one that every Christian makes to his neighbor, is also included in the Lord’s Prayer. For here we mutually confess our guilt and our desire for forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24). Now, all of us are guilty of sinning against one another; therefore, we may and should publicly confess this before everyone without shrinking in one another’s presence. For what the proverb says is true, “If anyone is perfect, then all are.” There is no one at all who fulfills his obligations toward God and his neighbor (Romans 3:10-12). Besides such universal guilt, there is also the particular guilt of the person who has provoked another to rightful anger and needs to ask his pardon. So we have in the Lord’s Prayer a double absolution: there we are forgiven our offenses against God and those against our neighbor, and there we forgive our neighbor and become reconciled to him.

Besides this public, daily, and necessary confession, there is also the confidential confession that is only made before a single brother. If something particular weighs upon us or troubles us, something with which we keep torturing ourselves and can find no rest, and we do not find our faith to be strong enough to cope with it, then this private form of confession gives us the opportunity of laying the matter before some brother. We may receive counsel, comfort, and strength when and however often we wish. That we should do this is not included in any divine command, as are the other two kinds of confession. Rather, it is offered to everyone who may need it, as an opportunity to be used by him as his need requires. The origin and establishment of private Confession lies in the fact that Christ Himself placed His Absolution into the hands of His Christian people with the command that they should absolve one another of their sins (Ephesians 4:32). So any heart that feels it sinfulness and desires consolation has here a sure refuge when he hears God’s Word and makes the discovery that God through a human being looses and absolves him from his sins.

So notice then, that Confession, as I have often said, consists of two parts. The first is my own work and action, when I lament my sins and desire comfort and refreshment for my soul. The other part is a work that God does when He declares me free of my sin through His Word placed in the mouth of a man. It is this splendid, noble, thing that makes Confession so lovely, so comforting. It used to be that we emphasized it only as our work; all that we were then concerned about was whether our act of confession was pure and perfect in every detail. We paid no attention to the second and most necessary part of Confession, nor did we proclaim it. We acted just as if Confession were nothing but a good work by which payment was to be made to God, so that if the confession was inadequate and not exactly correct in every detail, then the Absolution would not be valid and the sin unforgiven. By this the people were driven to the point where everyone had to despair of making so pure a Confession (an obvious impossibility) and where no one could feel at ease in his conscience or have confidence in his Absolution. So they not only rendered the precious Confession useless to us but also made it a bitter burden (Matthew 23:4) causing noticeable spiritual harm and ruin.

In our view of Confession, therefore, we should sharply separate its two parts far from each other. We should place slight value on our part in it. But we should hold in high and great esteem God’s Word in the Absolution part of Confession. We should not proceed as if we intended to perform and offer Him a splendid work, but simply to accept and receive something from Him. You dare not come saying how good or how bad you are. If you are a Christian, I in any case, know well enough that you are. If you are not, I know that even better. But what you must see to is that you lament your problem and that you let yourself be helped to acquire a cheerful heart and conscience.

Moreover, no one may now pressure you with commandments. Rather, what we say is this: Whoever is a Christian or would like to be one is here faithfully advised to go and get the precious treasure. If you are no Christian and do not desire such comfort, we shall leave it to another to use force on you. By eliminating all need for the pope’s tyranny, command, and coercion, we cancel them with a single sweep. As I have said, we teach that whoever does not go to Confession willingly and for the sake of obtaining the Absolution, he may as well forget about it. Yes, and whoever goes around relying on the purity of his act of making confession, let him stay away. Nevertheless, we strongly urge you by all means to make confession of your need, not with the intention of doing a worthy work by confessing but in order to hear what God has arranged for you to be told. What I am saying is that you are to concentrate on the Word, on the Absolution, to regard it as a great and precious and magnificently splendid treasure, and to accept it with all praise and thanksgiving to God.

If this were explained in detail and if the need that ought to move and lead us to make confession were pointed out, then one would need little urging or coercion. For everyone’s own conscience would so drive and disturb him that he would be glad to do what a poor and miserable beggar does when he hears that a rich gift of money or clothing is being handed out at a certain place. So as not to miss it, he would run there as fast as he can and would need no bailiff to beat and drive him on. Now, suppose that in place of the invitation one were to substitute a command to the effect that all beggars should run to that place but not say why nor mention what they should look for and receive there. What else would the beggar do but make the trip with distaste, without thinking of going to get a gift but simply of letting people see what a poor, miserable beggar he is? This would bring him little joy and comfort but only greater resentment against the command that was issued.

I believe what Luther is alluding to when he writes “besides the Confession here being considered” is the general, public confession made during the Divine Service and also made during the recital of the Lord’s Prayer.

What I glean from the “Admonition” is that (a) there is a “work” on our part, and that is to come forward, voluntarily, and confess our guilt; (b) absolution of a kind may be something offered by a “brother” (but perhaps only in extraordinary, and quite personal, circumstances, and not something to be bandied about on the bus, as Bolz-Weber would have it) ; and (c) even someone who wishes to be a Christian, i.e., is not yet baptized, may make confession and receive absolution. It is clear from here and other statements by Luther on the subject that the intensity of one’s contrition is irrelevant, presumably because we don’t ever really know ourselves to begin with.

But a confession must be made. It does not seem enough merely to feel “bad” about things you’ve done or mistakes you’ve made. The notion that you have sinned against God and are in need of forgiveness appears to be a sine qua non of Absolution.

There is also the “Yes, I called Bob an idiot — but I have proof!” kind of confession. Guilty, but with an explanation. Does that cut it? I mean self-justification is a side racket we all run, a multilevel marketing scheme of the soul.

What am I missing?


*Specifically as explicated in the works of Paul Zahl. I once remarked to a junior fellow at FIRST THINGS, an orthodox, low-church Episcopalian (yes they still exist), that if Zahl’s ecclesiology were any lower, he’d have to conduct services in a bomb shelter. His view of the sacraments is just left of Zwingli’s. I mean Quakers laugh at him. Good night, folks, I’ll be here all week, enjoy the veal piccata.

Are Germans Reliving Their 16th Century Lutheran Past?


I’m always fascinated by how the Reformation is portrayed in the popular media and the press. Almost everyone gets it half-right, and usually it’s the wrong half.

This article is three years old, but it was still enlightening on a few fronts. For example, I did not know that Angela Merkel was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, or that she was a “Lutheran believer” or the “most powerful woman in the world.” (Does Beyonce know about this?)

And given the anxieties that Greece’s massive debt is causing the EU, and especially the Germans, I thought it still somewhat relevant — at least in terms of the north-south tensions.

Exactly 500 years ago, one of Europe’s greatest thinkers was getting increasingly worried that good German money was being wasted.

Cash was heading to the Mediterranean, subsidising a bunch of badly behaved foreigners.

The 16th Century German thinker was Martin Luther and he was desperate to stay part of that great European project known as the Roman Catholic Church, but equally desperate not to support those who were ripping off German believers to pay to build St Peter’s in Rome.

The unfairness of the abuses fed popular resentment until German patience finally snapped. Luther broke away from his beloved Catholic Church, “protesting” in that great rebellion we know as the creation of Protestantism, the Reformation.

This is a daft interpretation of the Reformation, one I believe deliberately distorts in order to make the parallels the author is reaching for.

Nowadays, Germans — even those who are Catholic or non-Christian — cannot escape the Lutheran past.

It’s also the Lutheran present. The most powerful woman in the world, Angela Merkel, is a Lutheran believer, the daughter of a pastor. The new German president, Joachim Gauck, is a former Lutheran pastor.

And that cliche of “the Protestant work ethic” – hardworking German taxpayers, even if they are not actually Protestant, continue to bail out the euro while being caught in a squeeze as acute as Luther in the 16th Century.

In their hearts, from Merkel to the car worker on the Volkswagen assembly line, the German people are desperate to be good Europeans, just as Luther was desperate to be a good Catholic.

But in their heads, most Germans suspect there may be something wrong — something morally wrong as well as economically dangerous — about giving money to those who, in the German view, have been at best reckless and at worst dishonest.

It goes without saying that nothing happens in a vacuum, that there is always a socio-political context in which great movements in history occur. In terms of the broader political and social context of the Reformation era, yes, northerners were definitely sick of sending southerners (in short, Rome) money to be spent on who knows what pet papal project. In fact, the 16th century saw the beginning of a massive shift of power, wealth, and cultural influence from south to north, from vibrant trading Italian city-states and Spain, the world’s first truly global empire, to Germany, the Lowlands, and England. And yes, a growing nationalism provided patronage and protection for reformers like Luther, who in an earlier age would almost certainly have been executed.

And yet these considerations are too often seen as the true motivation behind the Reformation, with the theology as a kind of clever rationale for a radical reorientation of political and economic authority. The Reformation is spun such that scholars and theologians were merely feeding princes with rhetorical fuel for escaping old alliances and dependencies, as if justification by faith through grace were merely a secret handshake within court circles.* (That the political and the religious were inextricably bound also escape so many modern commentators. See the excerpt from Oberman’s biography of Luther below.)

The journalist who wrote this BBC article interviewed Merkel — but strangely merely comments on her, without giving “the most powerful woman in the world” a voice of her own:

Our businesslike conversation reminded me of all those virtuous adjectives – pure Luther – that I learned in my first German lesson – sparsam, treu, ehrlich, ernst, streng – thrifty, straight, honest, serious, strict.

In fact, the pastor’s daughter from Hamburg sitting in front of me sounds exactly like the grocer’s daughter from Grantham – Margaret Thatcher. Their values — and their view of home economics — could almost be interchangeable.

I suggested to her that when she talks of thriftiness and responsibility (which she does a lot) then many British people will agree with her, which is why so many Britons are sceptical about the euro and suspect it might fail. …

Despite the legacy of the war, the divisions of the euro, and the cliches in British and German tabloid newspapers, I left the Chancellery thinking how much Britain and Germany really have in common.

As if Henry VIII and Luther were really on the same side all along.


* I feel the same bafflement when people argue that what Islam needs is its own Martin Luther, its own Reformation — which, of course, is meaningless. Islam doesn’t have a centralized institutional authority analogous to Rome it needs to revolt against. And most important, this line of reasoning simply refuses to take seriously that the doctrine of justification was at the heart of the Great Reform, its impact felt in every area of the church’s life. What would be the “article” by which Islam either stands or falls? And by the way, wasn’t Wahhabism a “great reform” of sorts? How did that work out?

From Heiko A. Oberman’s Luther: Man between God and the Devilon the confrontation between Cajetan and Luther in 1518 and all that was at stake, especially from the German side (boldfaced emphasis mine):

Frederick the Wise, sovereign of Saxony, was at the forefront when it came to throwing off the yoke of ecclesiastical power. This meant more than a battle against continual curial infringements on the sovereign rights of princes; it also included the local bishops who were vying with the sovereigns for power. Princes were still compelled to fight for what many free imperial cities already had: independence from the temporal supremacy of the Church. In 1518, the Luther issue, which had thus far attracted little attention outside Germany, was only one of the many ecclesiastical conflicts to arise in Augsburg. At stake was the status of the Church in the German territories.

It fell to the Roman legate, Cardinal Cajetan, to find a solution to the Luther problem that would safeguard the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome without provoking the Saxon elector. And so between October 12 and 15, 1518—after the diet had ended—Martin Luther underwent the first and only interrogation to which he was ever subjected. Cajetan had promised the elector to proceed as a “father” and not like a “judge,” but all his efforts were in vain: reasoning with Luther was as ineffective as harsh commands. In the end the legate could only conclude that the monk must be regarded as a heretic unwilling to recant and bow to the Church.

For Cajetan that was the end of the matter. Despite the monk’s intractability, the legate, as promised, had not had the man arrested, but as ordered by the pope, he did pronounce judgment. He emphatically urged Frederick: “I exhort and beg Your Highness to consider Your honor and Your conscience and either to have the monk Martin sent to Rome or to chase him from your lands. Your Highness should not let one little friar (unum fraterculum) bring such ignominy over You and Your house.”

The Venetian ambassador and the papal legate were equally astonished that a German diet could allow itself to be influenced by such trivialities, or that an elector could let himself become so distracted by a monk’s ludicrous chatter that the necessities of politics were forgotten. Typically German—inconceivable anywhere else!

“Typically Roman”—thus the response from the German side, venting its irritation: here come those wily Latins, trying again to take advantage of us naive Germans for their own purposes. Like every individual elector, the diet as a whole bore responsibility for the political interests of Germany, not those of Rome. As the imperial estates saw it, emancipation from the curia was among the essential national grievances that had to be met.

The reigning princes, especially Frederick, understood politics in a wider sense than we do today. Politics was not restricted to temporal welfare; it was also concerned with the prerequisites and conditions for the eternal salvation of the citizenry in town and country. That is why Luther’s Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (August 1520) could become his most effective political treatise. Here the worldly authorities could find the biblical justification for their long-practiced commitment to the well-being of the region and the regional Church. He who submissively left the welfare of the Church to the “courtiers” of the Roman curia was violating the obligations of a Christian prince.


You Might Be a Lutheran If…



1. You use the word “jackanapes” in casual conversation.

2. Someone holds the door for you and you accuse him of works righteousness.

3.  You fall asleep in church but insist you were only remembering your baptism.

4. You ask if there’s a Communion wine that tastes more like beer.

5. You think the pope is the antichrist but still a Christian.

6. You have a T-shirt that reads “All Cretans are liars” (see #5).

7. You’re a staunch Republican even though you think Lincoln was guilty of unionism.

8. You keep calling Philipp Jakob Spener a pietist even though no one is saying otherwise.

9. You failed your driver’s test twice because you were convinced it did not rightly divide law and gospel.

10. Your broke off your first engagement because your intended did not express sufficient ambivalence about Philipp Melanchthon.

11.  You broke off your second engagement because your intended thought the “Second Martin” was Marty.

12. You wrote Everlast and asked if they would market a line of speed bags called “Zwinglis.”

13. You think the Thirty Years War had one more good year left in it.

14. Your gmail password is “GustavusAldophus1632.”

15. When your first child was born, you haunted every grocery store and pharmacy looking for a formula called “Concord.”

16. You believe 95% of life is adiaphora.

17. Your spouse caught you late one night watching YouTube videos of Davey and Goliath.

18. You think Kim and Khloé Kardashian would be more interesting if they were named Antilegomena and Homologoumena, respectively.

19. You once mailed Mother Teresa a biography of Katie Luther.

20. You’re convinced this is the Most Lutheran Man in the World.

FOUND: First Edition of Luther’s “On the Freedom of a Christian”



So the first edition of Luther’s classic 1520 treatise, which opens with an address to Pope Leo X, still the Reformer’s “most blessed father,” was lurking in a library in France.

It includes around 50 notes written in red by Luther himself, indicating changes he wanted for a second edition.

The American who made the discovery, James Hirsten, said it gave an important insight into Luther’s thinking at the time.

The annotated edition was found in The Humanist Library in Selestat, in the north-east of France.

Have those notes ever been published? If not, how long before we see an English edition? (Would be funny if the notes ran along the lines of “Dammit, I can’t read my own writing!” “What was I, drunk?” “Is that even a word?” “Less irenic, more invective!”)

And to think that Medici X — determined to stop the Great Reform by any means necessary — would excommunicate Luther the very next year, and after Luther had gone out of his way to flatter that jackanapes:

Is it not true that there is nothing under the vast heavens more corrupt, more pestilential, more hateful than the Court of Rome? She incomparably surpasses the impiety of the Turks, so that in very truth she, who was formerly the gate of heaven, is now a sort of open mouth of hell, and such a mouth as, under the urgent wrath of God, cannot be blocked up; one course alone being left to us wretched men, to call back and save some few, if we can, from that Roman gulf.

It was not meant to be taken personally… Continue reading “FOUND: First Edition of Luther’s “On the Freedom of a Christian””

Lutheran: To Be or Not to Be


So Herr Veith has another post on why Lutheranism is not considered the go-to choice of young, restless, and reflective Christians. He is playing off a post by Matthew Block over at his Captain Thin blog, which is responding to an AmCon piece entitled “Why Millennials Long for Liturgy.”

Everybody got that?

Check out the combox at Cranach for opinions as to why those millennials yearning to smell bells don’t head to Wittenberg, as opposed to Canterbury, Rome, or Constantinople. I already offered my opinion as to why I thought Calvinist churches were more attractive to many than were Lutheran, so let me throw one more stink bomb onto the buffet table:

Lutherans are boring.

Let me explain before you expel something you may need later in life.

Never underestimate the power of pop culture in molding young minds into malodorous plops of goo. Pop culture is where images are emblazoned on young minds, and where challenges to “orthodoxy” or tradition are often waged. When a twenty-something plays back his DVR or calls something up on Hulu, and there’s a scenario in which a Christian is represented, what typically does he or she see? Continue reading “Lutheran: To Be or Not to Be”