Alternating images of Luther

It has often been discussed whether Luther was a rebel or an evangelical reformer. There is no doubt, however, that he was one of the great creators of the spiritual history of humanity the influence of whom never has ended. A “legend” some might call him.

The prevailing picture of Luther in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, was not that of a legend. He was even referred to as a “Lügende” by Catholic circles. By others he was rather regarded as a true Father of the Church who in accordance with the words of the Bible was able to bring the true teachings to light and right since then many different interpretations of him have existed.

After the teachings of orthodoxy followed a generation that mainly focused on Pietism and soon began capitalizing on Luther. The Enlightenment appeared almost simultaneously with Pietism, and soon historical research began to assert itself. Luther was not untouchable or beyond reproach.

At the Imperial Diet of Worms, Luther declared, as we know, that it is not advisable for a person to act against his conscience, and maybe he used the words “Here I stand, I can do no other”, which has almost become a symbol of 19th century culture of personality and ideality where personal integrity and commitment to truth are the most important human values.

Around 1800, also Romanticism began to assert itself in the understanding of Luther. The interest in creative geniuses, the exceptional human being and historical heroes had awakened. They were the ones who created new ideas and made history. They were not subject to prosaic morality and bourgeois respectability. Luther earned a position among these heroes as one of the greatest religious geniuses.

To sum up the diversity, also the Catholic image of Luther should be mentioned. Recent decades have brought great changes. Catholics have begun reading Luther and to understand the relevance of his criticism of the Church of the time, to respect him both as a person and preacher, and even as a theologian. Thus Luther has become the basis of a fruitful conversation between the two denominations. Luther’s influence did not die with his death in 1546. He still compels people to assess their beliefs, and later generations have through their meeting with him found their position as to the deepest problems of life.

 

The Lutheran Council of Great Britain
30 Thanet Street London WC1H 9QH
Registered Charity No. 232042

Alternating images of Luther

It has often been discussed whether Luther was a rebel or an evangelical reformer. There is no doubt, however, that he was one of the great creators of the spiritual history of humanity the influence of whom never has ended. A “legend” some might call him.

The prevailing picture of Luther in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, was not that of a legend. He was even referred to as a “Lügende” by Catholic circles. By others he was rather regarded as a true Father of the Church who in accordance with the words of the Bible was able to bring the true teachings to light and right since then many different interpretations of him have existed.

After the teachings of orthodoxy followed a generation that mainly focused on Pietism and soon began capitalizing on Luther. The Enlightenment appeared almost simultaneously with Pietism, and soon historical research began to assert itself. Luther was not untouchable or beyond reproach.

At the Imperial Diet of Worms, Luther declared, as we know, that it is not advisable for a person to act against his conscience, and maybe he used the words “Here I stand, I can do no other”, which has almost become a symbol of 19th century culture of personality and ideality where personal integrity and commitment to truth are the most important human values.

Around 1800, also Romanticism began to assert itself in the understanding of Luther. The interest in creative geniuses, the exceptional human being and historical heroes had awakened. They were the ones who created new ideas and made history. They were not subject to prosaic morality and bourgeois respectability. Luther earned a position among these heroes as one of the greatest religious geniuses.

To sum up the diversity, also the Catholic image of Luther should be mentioned. Recent decades have brought great changes. Catholics have begun reading Luther and to understand the relevance of his criticism of the Church of the time, to respect him both as a person and preacher, and even as a theologian. Thus Luther has become the basis of a fruitful conversation between the two denominations. Luther’s influence did not die with his death in 1546. He still compels people to assess their beliefs, and later generations have through their meeting with him found their position as to the deepest problems of life.

 

The Lutheran Council of Great Britain
30 Thanet Street London WC1H 9QH
Registered Charity No. 232042