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… Continue reading “Luther to Enter Rome, Again”

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. Continue reading “Who Can Forgive Whose Sins?”

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. Continue reading “Are Germans Reliving Their 16th Century Lutheran Past?”

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: 1st 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: 1st 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”