Luther is frequently quoted in support of the goodness of the vocations we pursue in everyday life. But let’s make sure we get the quote right, says Justin Taylor from The Gospel Coalition via Frederic Gaiser in Word and World:
The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.
“[W]hat marks Luther’s doctrine of vocation is the insistence that the work is done in service of the neighbor and of the world. God likes shoes (and good ones!) not for their own sake, but because the neighbor needs shoes. . . .”
Read more (and some more things Luther didn’t actually say) here. Prepare to be surprised!
It was his excommunication–largely for his attacks on these abuses rather than any of his later theology–that broke the Church apart. Otherwise, the Church might have corrected the abuses and gone forward, unified. But, instead, the western Church did break into two major strands, and Protestantism became a continuing tradition of theological change and, in some circles, secularization.
But the Reformation did bring good things to Western Civilization, things like universal education, social equality, a new sense of the inner life, personal freedom.
Luther was, in many ways, a man of both the Middle Ages and a man of the new modern era. That’s why he and his theology speak so powerfully to people today and how he is so relevant to the modern condition. (See Oswald Bayer’s Martin Luther: A Contemporary Interpretation.) He can bring the Medieval insights into our own day, and he can correct the Medieval blind spots with a larger perspective informed by the Word of God.