Monday, March 14, 2016

Luther and the Radical Reformation

Luther set about the Reformation in an interesting way.  He wrote.  He preached.  He taught.  He managed little Wittenburg, and while he advised others, he never commanded, never demanded.  Luther's Reformation was, for all of his bluster, a humble one.

Zwingli commanded armies.  The Anabaptists took over towns.  Theirs was a "radical" one.

I often think about the tenor of Luther's approach.  He didn't try to fix the word - he tried to confess the truth.  He did not make himself the center - indeed, the great confession of Lutheranism wasn't penned by his hand.  Even the princes there at Augsburg did not take up offensive arms against the Emperor (certainly not in Luther's life).  Instead, they bowed their head and said, "You may take my head before you take my faith."

So often in Lutheran circles we have this image of Luther as the dynamic, powerful reformer who went about and made things happen.  We forget his humility.  We forget that when it came to exercising any earthly power, he was passive, he was slow.  The great hymn of the Reformation does not proclaim, "We'll take their lives, their goods and fame shall die!"  No - "and take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, though these all be gone, our vict'ry has been won.  The kingdom ours remaineth."

About the most radical, pro-active thing Luther did was kicking Karlstadt out of Wittenberg.  Of course, he was pulled out of the Wartburg where Frederick had hid him precisely to clean up the mess Karlstadt had made of things.  But even then - Karlstadt was banished; took his reputation with him.  Luther would speak against his poor doctrine, but wouldn't hound him.

There's a stein I have with a Luther quote: "... while I sat and drank beer with Philip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow."

Always so focused on what God was doing.  Always so diminishing of what he himself was doing. 

It would be a good lesson to remember.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, I am indeed unworthy of the office in which I am to make known Thy glory...

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