Teaching about Martin Luther has its moments.
I was talking about him one day in class with a picture of the Protestant leader on power point. A student raised her hand. “But I thought Martin Luther was black.”
It’s true, Martin Luther King Junior was an African American, and an admirable person in his own right. The man he was named after, however, was German.
Students are fascinated to learn that he nailed 95 “theses” to the Wittenberg castle door. “Thesis” is a perfectly good word you understand, but you will want to be very careful as you pronounce the plural of that word.
Then there is the moment that Luther defended his actions in a session referred to as the Diet (another word for parliament) of Worms (a town in Germany). What, one wonders, do students imagine when they think of Luther and a diet of… larvae?
It should be said that I am troubled by a number of Luther’s teachings. His motto, sola fide (faith alone) is unbiblical. The Scripture teaches the truth of both faith and works (James 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:8-10).
October 31, 2017 will be, please note, the five hundredth anniversary of Luther’s famous challenge to the church of his day. Every time a devout believer since who has stood and said: “This is what I believe the Bible teaches,” can thank Martin Luther for the courage to say it first. Our right to speak openly from the Bible derives from that day.
The Diet of Worms was a serious affair. There was a bounty on Luther’s head, and he could easily have been arrested and executed that day. Under the circumstances his words were clear and courageous. “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God,” he declared.
“Here I stand. I can do no other.”
Now there is a sublime thought. What would it be like to have our consciences “bound by Scriptures?” Such ties would be strong as steel and gentle as a baby’s touch. As Luther’s auspicious anniversary comes over the horizon, it’s worth thinking about.