Get your “Little Luther”

As we blogged about earlier, Playmobil’s biggest selling toy figure of all time is their new rendition of Martin Luther.   Now it is going on sale in the United States.   See how to get one after the jump.

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Luther on sex

The younger generation, as has been said, always thinks that it has invented sex.  And those who “don’t know much about history” seem to think that sex and sexual issues are contemporary phenomena.  So the editors at Salon are giddy to learn what Martin Luther wrote about sex.

Reading from a new book about Luther that discusses the reformer’s critique of mandatory celibacy for those in religious orders, his criticism of canon laws restricting and regulating marriage, and his defense of marriage as a vocation–which has to include a defense of its defining action–Salon reprints an excerpt  under the headline “Martin Luther’s pro-sex shocker” and the deck “Centuries ago, Martin Luther’s ideas were way ahead of their time.”

Well, Luther was advocating marriage and criticizing the sex outside of marriage that was rampant in his time, particularly among those forced into celibacy who lacked that gift.  (Some priests rationalized their use of prostitutes by thinking “at least I’m not married,” so I am merely fornicating and not forsaking my vow.)

True, Luther believed that regulating marriage was the business of the state, not the church, which would put him against those who think we should just leave marriage to the church and keep the state out of it.  And he was rethinking what the parameters about divorce, etc., should be in the absence of canon law.  But his frank talk about sex is not “ahead of his time,” as anyone who reads old books can attest.  People weren’t squeamish about talking about the subject until the Victorian era of the 19th century.

Anyway, his views are interesting, so I link to and quote from Salon’s sampling from James Reston’s new book.

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Luther’s notes to “Freedom of a Christian” discovered

A first edition of Luther’s classic treatise “The Freedom of a Christian,” dated 1520, has been discovered in a library in France.  It contains annotations in red ink in Luther’s hand, indicating the changes he wanted to make in future editions.  As far as I can tell, those annotations have not yet been published, but we should watch for them.

Thanks to Anthony Sacramone for drawing this to my attention.  Read his discussion of this find and of the book itself.   If you only read one book by Luther, read this one.  It is Luther at his very best, unpacking the Gospel, the freedom we have in Christ, his neighbor-centered ethic, and vocation. [Read more...]

“God is in every syllable”

Popular author James Reston, Jr., has written a book entitled Luther’s Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation Under Siege, about Luther’s time in Wartburg Castle, when he was in hiding from the Emperor’s death sentence.  Here he began his translation of the Bible.  It took him a mere 10 weeks to translate the New Testament.

After the jump, a link and an excerpt to Reston’s revealing discussion about Luther’s translation, his method and his approach, including a comparison with the King James translation, which took 48 translators 10 years. [Read more...]

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...]


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