Theologian Thursday: Martin Luther (1483-1546)

I have held out on doing Martin Luther for the longest time. Mostly because I pretty much don't like the guy or his theology and didn't feel like I could give him a fair shake, but then I realized it's my blog and I can do whatever I want, so there.

But before this post becomes 500 Reasons Martin Luther is a Turd, here are some things I like about him:

  1. He is The Reformer of the Western Church. As I mentioned in my post on Reformation Day, despite my Catholic sympathies, I am irrevocably Protestant. So I have him to thank for that. He stood up to many ills in both belief and praxis in the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. selling indulgences--basically allowing people to buy forgiveness for their sins from the church).
  2. I'm a fan of his doctrine of the sacramental union and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I feel like it's a nice middle road between Zwingli's merely memorial elements (not real or important enough, if you ask me) and traditional transubstantiation (maybe too real?) and it acknowledges that the bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ (not just a symbol)... but that it's still bread and wine so don't freak out. Anyway, I could talk about Eucharist forever so I'll leave it at that.
  3. He's cool with clerical marriage. His own marriage set the precedent for Protestant priests, pastors, etc. to marry, which I think is right and good.
  4. "Soul sleep." Obviously nobody knows what happens when people die. But I know enough about biology (and, I don't know, astronomy, I guess?) to say that our "souls" probably don't "go to heaven," because A) There's not really a soul and B) There's not really a heaven. But because I'm a Christian and believe (or really, really want to believe) in a resurrection of the dead (kind of... maybe... sorry, there's no way to get through this paragraph without a million qualifications), I think the idea of "soul sleep" kind of makes the most sense. When you're dead, you're dead. But then you'll be alive again. Hopefully.
So those are some cool things about Luther.

I could make another list about how he was anti-semitic, hated women, put too much stock in the epistles of Paul/pseudo-Paul, thought each Christian had to "tear the eyes out of his Reason," had a wonky translation of the Bible, believed in "just" war, and was on the wrong end of a debate with my beloved Erasmus... but this sentence will have to do. I like to keep things positive around here.

What you should read:
  • Word and Sacrament I-IV (good stuff to be found in here)
(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality: 
I'll let Luther speak for himself here: "Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children." "Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error""The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes."

Environmental Sensibility: 
Again, it's hard to say. He has some nice thoughts about natural theology, but I feel like he'd be the type of person that wouldn't be much of a tree-hugger.

Heretical Tendencies: 
Obviously this depends on the side of the Catholic/Protestant divide on which you stand. Luther was excommunicated for not recanting anything from his works, especially the 95 theses. But much of his thinking is still pretty mainstream within Protestantism.

General Badassery: 
I can't deny that Martin Luther was a total badass. I mean, anyone who can just come out and say that the Bible says women are only fit for sex (for babies or business) has some major cojones. Dude was big and loud and drank and did and said pretty much whatever he wanted., without caring who was listening or what they would think (even if it was the Pope). I can dig that.

Lastly, a lovely quote:
"Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books, but in every leaf in springtime."