Thomas More vs. the Reformation

Now that Hilary Mantel’s superb novels about Thomas Cromwell have been made into a TV series, Wolf Hall, her points about the good guys and bad guys in Tudor England are attracting attention and controversy.  Conventionally, Cromwell has been considered a Machiavellian villain who helped Henry VIII  break from the Church of Rome because of his romance with Anne Boleyn, only to later frame her for unfaithfulness.  His foil was Thomas More–later, St. Thomas More–the humanist scholar who refused to go along with these schemes at the cost of his life.

But Mantel portrays Cromwell as a decent man, carefully navigating the whims of an unstable king, while deftly advancing the cause of reform and Reformation in a corrupt society and a corrupt church.  More, on the other hand, as Mantel tells it, is a reactionary bigot, who sought to stamp out the Reformation by burning the “heretics” at the stake (which would include William Tyndale, for translating the Bible into English).

Now many Catholics are outraged at this treatment of their Renaissance saint, who has lately been held up as the model of the Christian intellectual who puts the laws of God over the laws of the state.  Mark Movesian goes so far as to say that Wolf Hall is part of the attack on religious liberty.  The depiction of More, he says, is an example of today’s mindset that the demands of the state should trump the teachings  of the church.  But, of course, it finally comes down to whether you support the beliefs of More or his victims.

Anthony Sacramone has given a quite brilliant Lutheran reply to all of this.  He includes what More said about Luther (who also opposed Henry VIII and his shenanigans), More’s defense of heretic burning, and what Purgatory meant to the people of the time. [Read more...]

The Luther Reading Challenge

Some people from the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasburg, France, have been teaching Luther and his theology to an international crowd in Wittenberg for the last six years.  They have been amazed at how Luther’s articulation of the Gospel addresses contemporary issues and contemporary religious struggles.

So in conjunction with Lutheran Forum, this group is sponsoring a Luther Reading Challenge.

You can go to this  website to find free readings from Luther.  You can discuss them here and in groups of your own.  The reading project will continue until the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses, which will be on October 31, 2017.

Read about it after the jump and take the Luther Reading Challenge! [Read more...]

A new biography of Frederick the Wise

Concordia Publishing House has just published a new biography of Frederick the Wise, the powerful Duke of Saxony who was Luther’s protector.  I was able to read an advance copy, and it is excellent.   The book, by the multi-faceted biographer Sam Wellman, puts the reader in the middle of the life and times of late Medieval Saxony, with all of the intrigue and high-stakes politics that characterized the Holy Roman Empire. And Frederick emerges as a formidable figure, someone the Emperor relied on so much that he dared not arrest the Duke’s pet theologian.  Also, contrary to other things I had read, Frederick was very much a “Lutheran” who appreciated above all Luther’s emphasis on the Scriptures.  After the jump, a link to the book, and the endorsement I wrote for it. [Read more...]

Super-Christians & vows against vocation

In the second in Mission Work’s series on a Lutheran perspective on faith & work, Rev. Adam Roe offers a post entitled No super-Christians.  He discusses Luther’s reaction against the view that those who want to be particularly spiritual–”super-Christians”–would become monks, nuns, or priests.  These were considered callings from God–”vocations”–while lay occupations were not.

I would add that the specific way that a person became a “super-Christian” contributed to the problem:  A person who sought to become “religious” took–and still takes–vows.  [Read more...]

The fastest-selling Playmobil of all time

martin luther
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Who wants to go to Germany in 2017?

In 2017, two years from now, we will be marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, occasioned by Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses.  There will be lots of festivities, especially at the Luther sites in Germany.  Those look to include performances of the opera and play about Katie Luther, the Reformer’s wife, which was commissioned and is performed by friend-of-this-blog Lori Lewis.

She has proposed a symbolic Katherine von Bora/Lucas Cranach reunion tour (the artist being the one who took her in after she escaped from the convent and who arranged her marriage with his friend Martin).  That is to say, she is proposing that the Cranach blog would join with her friends of Katie network to sponsor a trip to Germany in 2017, seeing all of the Luther sites, taking in a Katie performance, and doing other fun and inspiring things along the way.  She and I would lead the group, making use also of local guides, and a great time will be had by all.

Through the years of this blog, a number of you readers and commenters have expressed the wish to meet each other in person, rather than just virtually.  This could be that opportunity.  And what a way to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation! [Read more...]


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