Martin Luther as inventor of freedom

1024px-Лютер_в_ВормсеLutherans aren’t the only ones celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses.  Nor are Protestants or other Christians.  Luther had a monumental impact on Western Civilization, so even the secularists are taking the opportunity to study Luther’s cultural contributions, from his impact on universal education to his pioneering use of information technology (the printing press).

Time Magazine has published an article reprinted from History Today by scholar Frank Furedi entitled How Martin Luther Helped Invent Individual Freedom.

Furedi argues that when Luther stood up against Pope and Emperor at the Diet of Wurms, making his stand on his individual conscience, he, in effect, invented personal freedom.  His rejection of temporal and ecclesiastical authority would lead, Furedi says, to the undermining of all authority.  Including, eventually, to the authority of God.

Read Furedi’s argument, quoted and linked after the jump.  After which, I will explain what is wrong with what he says, while acknowledging that Luther did play an important role in the rise of freedom.

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What Germany is doing for Luther’s 500th Anniversary

Stadtkirche_Wittenberg_Marktplatz_mit_Rathaus_11_CGermany has lots going on for the 500th Anniversary year of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses.  The country has spiffed itself up (though Germany is always pretty spiffy), is sponsoring lots of Luther exhibits, and has launched special non-Luther things to see and do.

Travel writer Rick Steves tells “What’s new in Germany” after the jump.  This includes an exhibit on Luther’s life and times in Wittenberg, an exhibit on Luther’s influence on Germany in Wartburg, and an exhibit on Luther’s global influence in Berlin.

Steves goes on to tell about other good reasons to visit Germany and Eastern Europe in 2017.

At one point, we were discussing sponsoring a Cranach tour this year in conjunction with Lori Lewis and the fans of her Katie Luther opera.  But that possibility has fallen through.  But if you want to be in Wittenberg for the anniversary year, go here. [Read more…]

Holy Sepulchre needs more repair or it might collapse

Domes_of_the_Church_of_the_Holy_SepulchreRestoration work on the shrine built around the likely spot of Christ’s tomb has been completed.  (See this and this and this.)  But researchers have found that the shrine and the surrounding complex have been built on unstable ground.  Without more work, there could someday be a “catastrophic” collapse.

The “edicule,” the small building around the tomb that has been restored, preserves the remnants of a cave.  It was once part of a quarry that had been turned into grave sites for wealthy Jews.  (Note the confirmation of what the Bible says about Joseph of Arimathea, who offered the grave that he owned for the body of Jesus.)  A number of those other grave sites have also been discovered on the property.  The quarry is also thought to have been the site of “the Place of the Skull,” the Golgotha where criminals were executed.  This is why the Church of the Holy Sepulchre complex also includes the reported site of the crucifixion.

The site over the ancient quarry is honeycombed with other caves and tunnels from the mining.  The current structure is also built on top of tons of rubble, not only from the quarry but from layers of  building and rebuilding over the centuries.  Plus, the graves were dug into a slope.  Drainage problems and damage from so many visitors are compounding the problem.

Researchers are proposing a six million euro project to shore up the buildings and to stabilize the foundations.  The construction work would be accompanied with more archaeological excavation.
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Luther as populist and freedom fighter

Luther_(Wislicenus)Much of Europe, including Catholics, will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the 95 theses.  But Great Britain, not so much.

The founder of the Church of England, King Henry VIII, hated Luther (who opposed his multiple marriages) and martyred his followers.  Later, when Anglicans became distinctly Protestant, they threw in with John Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

Even though the church followed Luther in adopting the Liturgy and emphasizing the Sacraments–thanks to Wittenberg student Thomas Cranmer–the Anglicans don’t do much with Luther.  So they are mostly skipping the October 31 celebration.

British journalist Peter Stanford, writing in the left-of-center Guardian, thinks that’s a shame.  He says Luther deserves to be celebrated as a populist, a champion of the poor, and the seminal defender of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience.  He also says Luther is a key founder of the modern era.  He was also unimaginably brave.

Now I’m not sure Mr. Stanford fully understands the religious significance of Luther, particularly, his recovery of the Gospel, and there are other things he gets wrong.  But you should read his article for an interesting secular perspective on Luther’s cultural influence. [Read more…]

Work on Jesus’ burial site completed

Aedicule_which_supposedly_encloses_the_tomb_of_Jesus-LR1We blogged about the excavation and renovation of Jesus’ tomb at our post “See the Place Where They Laid Him.”  Now, just in time for Easter, the renovation work and the preservation of the site at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem have been completed.

The shrine had been in danger of collapse, but it has now been reinforced and protected.

When researchers opened the actual tomb, they removed a marble slab that had been put over the rock shelf on which the body of Jesus would have rested.  The slab dated from the Middle Ages. Underneath, they found yet another marble slab. This one dated from the 4th century, which would have been when Constantine’s mother Helena identified the site and built the first shrine over it.

Experts who put the site back together cut a window into the marble slabs so that the bare rock where Jesus’ body lay before His resurrection can be seen.

Photos of the restoration work are copyrighted, so go here for a bird’s eye view of where our Lord’s body was laid.

Photo of Aedicule, which encloses what is thought to be Christ’s tomb by Jlascar (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/10350934835/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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St. Patrick’s confession

5692057805_2a4b7d530b_zInstead of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by just wearing green, making a big deal about being Irish, drinking green beer, or marching in parades, try reading the works of St. Patrick and reflecting on his Christian faith and convictions.

Observe St. Patrick’s Day this year by reading the great missionary’s own story, as he tells about his life and confesses his faith in Christ.

Read “The Confession of St. Patrick” after the jump.

Also read his beautiful poem/meditation/hymn “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” also known as “Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me.”

And read our earlier post The True Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day.  Note the link to How the Irish Saved Civilization and reflect, who is going to save it today?
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