Friday, October 06, 2017

The Reformation Begins

On Christian Liberty 

On Christian Liberty

"So the Christian who is consecrated by his faith does good works, but the works do not make him holier or more Christian, for that is the work of faith alone."  - Martin Luther

In 1520, three years after posting his famous theses, Luther was still a monk in the Catholic Church. It was then that he wrote this short manifesto regarding the nature of the freedom of a Christian. In it he elucidates some of the principles that would become the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. He opens with a discussion of "man's twofold nature" of the inner spiritual nature or the soul and the outer bodily nature of the flesh. These two natures are in conflict for it is the inner nature or soul that is fed by the preaching of Christ that makes it righteous. He also discusses the seeming contradiction that the Christian is both free and subject to no one while at the same time in bondage and servant to all.

This short but rich text also brings out the importance of each individual being his own priest; thus laying the foundation for the doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers". I was impressed with Luther's style of argument, for he argued from the text of the Bible rather than from his unsupported views. In doing so he was able to rationally support statements that seemed contradictory on the surface. Admittedly the arguments depended on your acceptance of the divinity of the Bible as God's word. However, for Luther and his audience this was not an issue.

Luther had been concerned with edicts by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that had no biblical support. It is likely that with this in mind on September 6, 1520 he sent this manifesto with a letter to Pope Leo X. However the Catholic hierarchy was not be responsive to Luther's arguments. In the following year he was called to appear before the Diet of Worms and was declared a heretic.


Brian Joseph said...

I need to read this. I also need to read good biography of Martin Luther's life. This theses, as well as subsequent events in Martin Luther's life, were such important events in human history.

James said...

Thanks for commenting. This is a short great read like a pamphlet. Good News! There is a brand new biography of Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas: Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. Metaxas previously wrote a great biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I recommend for your reading.