My Review of Martin Luther as a Seminary Student

Below are excerpts from a paper I submitted for my January class at the evangelical seminary. I had purposefully selected Martin Luther as my biographical review for the class because I was eager to learn about my roots as a Protestant. The book is a very favorable portrayal of him, and I was well aware of the sins of the Catholic Church in the 16th century. Yet despite my best efforts I couldn’t help but think he was a very arrogant man who had done an awful thing, the significance of which was lost even on him.

Though I love and cherish the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, my fear is that this doctrine inevitably leads to such division. This was partially confirmed in Here I Stand, as Luther immediately had to content with heresies. Thomas Muntzer rejected all forms of baptism (263), Ulrich Zwingli rejected art and music as elements of worship (269), and the Anabaptists advocated what Luther thought as a “reversion to the monastic attempt to win salvation by a higher righteousness” (271). Each group was convinced by their own reason and Scripture. Amidst the confusion that came from many people attempting to interpret the Bible, the appeal for an authoritative interpretation of one unified Church is certainly alluring to me. . .

I have sometimes thought that modern Protestants have taken Sola Scriptura past its intention and have interpreted the Bible without any consideration of history. Yet Luther was willing to radically change many traditions of the Church, including the number of Sacraments (126), the authority of the Pope to interpret scripture (74), and in rejecting the Council of Constance (104). Luther’s opponents were shocked by his brash assertions. John Eck was incredulous and asked, “Are you the only one that knows anything? Except for you is all the Church in error?” (105). Luther’s challenges were bold, and I am uncomfortable with the possibility that many of the doctrines Luther promoted were not believed before the Reformation.

God has afforded me to study under some of the most learned men of the world. It is my hope and prayer that when I reach graduation I will be able to look back upon this book review and smile. I will have taken Church History I and II and learned much about the history of the Roman Catholic Church, about which I confess I know very little. I will have grown closer and closer to the Bible as the inerrant, necessary, sufficient, trustworthy Word of God. I will have an appreciation for the Roman Catholic tradition, but stand firm upon the ground of justification by faith alone, and take that message to the world.

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6 thoughts on “My Review of Martin Luther as a Seminary Student

  1. The in-fighting among protestants during the “so-called” reformation is indeed amazing and something that protestants normally skip right over. The fact that both Calvin and Luther held different books to be divinely inspired was also a point of early contention. They fought about everything. If you haven’t already you might also want to add Hillaire Belloc’s book on the Reformation to your reading list where the greed and avarice of people is shown to have played a large part in the destruction of churches and monasteries.

  2. Thanks for posting this — it’s wonderful to have a landmark for the evolution of your Catholic thoughts. And you are dead on about Luther. Also, the more I read of him, the more I think he was a jerk and a bully.

    I should post excerpts of my rabidly anti-Catholic William Tyndale paper (circa 2007), for kicks.

  3. Sola Scriptura has indeed been taken a bit too far by some but at the end of the day what would you rather see? A sincere attempt at understanding the original intent and cultural context of the words on the page or an interpretation based on tradition and more recent history that the authors could never have imagined let alone indended?

    I’m not so much anit-catholic or anti-tradition. I just wish people would lake an honest look at their traditions and figure out if they are indeed timeless or just a product of the times.

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