The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther

By Donald K. McKim | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Luther and modern church history

There are at least two respects in which this subject can easily conceal more than it elucidates. The more obvious of these is the all-too-temptingimpetus to ascribe to Luther everything in contemporary Christianity of which the author approves. This tendency is most obvious in the pictures of Luther that derive from German Protestants and Lutherans in particular. Thus, Luther was depicted in his own time as the one who, by the grace of God, recovered the gospel from centuries of neglect and abuse. In the seventeenth century Lutheran Orthodox theologians valued him as the one who taught the true collection of doctrines with which they associated true Christianity. Later Pietists found in him the Christian man of great interior faith, the Rationalists of the eighteenth century hailed him for freeing the human intellect from medieval superstition, and more Romantic thinkers of the nineteenth century saw him as the stalwart German who freed Germany from papist, that is Italian, cultural tyranny. More recent times have celebrated Luther the existentialist, enlisted his support for the National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler and its anti-Semitic atrocities, and even singled him out, along with Albert Einstein, as one of the great raw intellects in the history of the Western world. The other pattern, which goes almost without repeating, is that by contrast both former and latter-day opponents of Luther have found in him all the characteristics of whatever they have identified as most loathsome in their own time.

At present, there is also a subset of the first tendency mentioned above— that is, an urge to find praise or at least support in Luther for whatever the reader currently regards as most praiseworthy or desirable in his or her own time. From the perspective of those who seek the most precise and unvarnished truth about Luther possible, the currently most guilty party on this score is the ecumenical movement as it has been pursued in many quarters since Vatican II. Those among them who seek the formal reuniting of separated churches and at the same time carry the label“Lutheran” are particularly prone to seek in him elements that might be used in service to their agenda of contemporary institutional ecumenism. Thus, one


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 320

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?