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.