November 29, 2020

Reformation Week 2015 — Michael Spencer on the Reformation

Law and Grace, Cranach

Law and Grace, Cranach

Reformation Week 2015
Reformation Day is October 31

Note from CM: We begin our Reformation Week posts with an excerpt from a 2007 piece by Michael Spencer, called “Letting Some of the Air Out of the Reformation Balloon.”

• • •

My reading on Luther and the Reformation has changed my mind about a lot of things. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but here’s the short list.

  • I no longer believe the Reformation, as it’s commonly described by Protestants, is the distinct event we’ve made it out to be.
  • I no longer believe Luther ever intended to slay the Catholic Church and establish the wonder of contemporary Protestantism.
  • I am becoming increasingly sure that many things in the typical Reformation story are probably mythological, or most nearly so.
  • I’m especially convinced that a lot of the typical “Luther story” is probably historically inaccurate. Not necessarily untrue, but plenty of mythology in the mix.
  • I am very sure that the humanist and Catholic contribution to the reform of Christianity has been considerably obscured in the creation of a Protestant mythology.
  • I do not believe true Christianity was restored or rediscovered in the Reformation.
  • I’m convinced that it didn’t take long for Protestantism to accumulate enough problems of its own to justify another reformation or two.
  • I believe that a lot of Protestants say sola scriptura when they mean solo scriptura or nuda scriptura or something I don’t believe at all.
  • I now believe that tradition is a very good word.
  • I believe the Reformation was very secular, political and, eventually, quite violent. To act as if it was mostly a spiritual revival movement is naive.
  • I believe we ought to grieve the division of Christianity and the continuing division of Protestantism.
  • I no longer believe the theology of the Reformers was the pinnacle of evangelicalism or is the standard by which Biblical truth itself is judged.
  • I can see huge omissions from the work of the reformers, such as a theology of cross-cultural missions and much more.
  • I believe it is embarrassing to turn the Reformers into icons. Calvin on a t-shirt should win an award for irony.
  • I am a Protestant and I always will be, but I no longer take the kind of juvenile pride in Protestantism I did in the past. Much is good, and much has not been good. We have no right to stand superior to any other Christians.
  • I want to understand how Catholic and EO Christians understand Protestantism, and I want to do so with a sense of humility.
  • I don’t believe in ecumenism at any cost, but I can no longer imagine being a Christian without a commitment to ecumenism on some level.
  • There are many sins associated with Protestantism that I need to admit and repent of.

Part of my Reformation Day will be spent contemplating what it means to say “One Lord; One Faith; One Baptism; One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.”

Having a party celebrating the division of Christianity doesn’t really strike me as a something I want to do.


  1. That day that shall not be named could also include prayers for re-unity by all.

  2. It is ironic that hard-line Reformed Presbyterians will loudly celebrate Reformation Day, and decry the Roman Catholic Church for its traditions and it’s elevation of Canon law to divinely inspired legal status – and without blinking an eye, turn right around and use the Westminster Standards in the exact same way.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says

    “””I believe the Reformation was very secular, political and, eventually, quite violent. To act as if it was mostly a spiritual revival movement is naive.””””

    +1,000 The period of the reformation was a social and political system giving way to a changing economic and technological reality. Of course that was felt in the churches and expressed via people’s religious affiliations. But Theology in all that change was much nearer the caboose than then to the locomotive.

    • I agree with Spencer’s statement, and with yours. But isn’t it also true that the Roman Catholic Church maintained its religious monopoly over Western Europe for so long mostly because of similar non-religious factors?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > because of similar non-religious factors?

        Absolutely, yes; your statement is completely true. Being part-n-parcel with the state – to some significant degree pretty much everywhere – but with notably different forms – the Catholic Church remained the defacto religious architecture for a long time.

        On the other hand that is the normal form for human civilization – that of state, cultural, and religious entanglement. Because most people have no real interest in a disentanglement… until such time as one or more of the three is perceived as an obstruction. You only see metropolitan multiculturalism in the ancient world where multiculturalism was necessary – the trade and commerce hubs [the metropolis]. Slowly at first, then rapidly, those hubs expanded to encompass pretty much the entire western world. First literacy – making the craft of Accounting reliable – enabled financed commerce over distance. And finally with the advent of the steam engine – on both land and sea – the old world order was hopelessly doomed.

        It is a bit darkly ironic that Mercantilism – which freed The Church from Roman hegemony – would continue on to be the principle driver of her subsequent marginalization.

        Much of all the talk of “relevance” today is still a conversation, IMNSHO, about how The Church can exist in a meaningful way in a mercantile world. The conversation struggles in large part for fault of being unaware of what it is about; much of that unawareness being the obsession with Theology, schools of Theology, and the myth that the Reformation was a primarily religious event.

    • After all, over the period of the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church consolidated enormous secular and political power, and used it, sometimes in equally enormous acts of violence (as one example, remember the Albigensian Crusade). Aren’t these the non-religious reasons it maintained religious control for so long?

      • And the Albigensian Crusade underlines just how much secular, political and religious unrest there was in the late Middle Ages, before the Reformation, and just how desperate the Roman Catholic Church was to keep the non-religious control it had consolidated. The Reformation did not appear miraculously over night, but was the result of long developing problems in late medieval society and Church.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Roman Catholic Church consolidated enormous secular and political power, and used it,

        I think our only disagreement is seeing the RCC as so clearly an autonomous thing. She was as much used as she used; disentangling of the European feudal/monarchical system and the RCC is impossible.

        In some places – particularly France and Spain – the mechanisms of state and church were nearly two parliaments of a single institution. Structurally and financially completely dependent on the other, in varying phases of austerity and prosperity. But without some third force I see this as the natural condition.

        Noteable today are regions of the world where the primary disagreement remains between Church and State – they tend not to be stable places, and not places where one would choose to live. You need another potent force self-interested in fixed legal processes and the integrity of the contact in order to produce modern society.

        • the RCC… was as much used as she used; disentangling of the European feudal/monarchical system and the RCC is impossible.

          Exhibit A: the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (the 70-odd year residence of the Papacy in France, followed by the two, and then three, competing Popes claiming the mantle of True Vicar of Christ).

  4. Burro [Mule] says

    From the comment section on Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog:

    I often tell people that if you actually engage a “One-Storey Universe” (which is actually being noetically present), it will, at first “feel” like superstition. That feeling is the noise of our culture in our head. We are not pantheists, either. But a noetic relationship with the world will also often feel pantheistic at first. This is because the modern habit is always to divorce God from everything. God-in-anything feels like pantheism to us.

    I think I understand now why Protestantism got so rationalistic so quickly, and then pivoted around and nearly lost itself in the swamps of pietism. The Reformation was a change of consciousness. I still wonder why it never crossed the Vistula or the Danube, though. The Orthodox Church was affected by Protestantism during the Petrine reforms, but all in all, the Orthodox “superstitions” remain strangely intact. Even Russian Baptists stand for their services.

    Another observation I had is that the major divisions of Christendom tended to fall out along linguistic lines: Semitic vs Latin/Greek for the Chalcedonian schism, Greek vs Latin for 1054, Latin vs Germanic for the Reformation. The Slavs are the only ones who had an interior schism, with Poland, Bohemia, and Croatia going to Rome and the rest to the East.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I still wonder why it never crossed

      Geography and language would be the principle reasons IMO. There are mountains in the way, that slowed down the movement. And it gave time for the hegemonic powers of the East to brace themselves, and prepare a rebuttal, to the new powers in the West. In the East you also simply have much greater distances than in the more compact and densely settled West. Much like the American West those fierce landscapes would remain remarkably autonomous until the railroad age, travel was too slow and too perilous.

      • Also, there were powerful nobles in the West who championed the causes of the Reformation, for good reasons as well as bad. The East had already drifted/broken from Rome at that point, which defused a lot of the appeal of Protestantism over there I expect…

        • Eckhart Trolle says

          Russia had all kinds of Protestant-like schismatic movements, with the equivalents of everything from pacifism to Pentecostalism. Most of them are still around.

      • Geography and language would be the principle reasons…

        The Alps were a formidable barrier, then and even now, in some ways (with the tunnels through Mont Blanc and a few other places). I know that there were Italians who were trying to circulate books and essays, but I think it was much easier for the papal authorities to seize them close to home. Those people (am blanking on their names, etc. ATM) didn’t last long.

        The thing about language is yes and no, because so many of the important books and essays and speeches were either written in Latin to begin with, or translated into Latin, so that educated people could then read them – no worries (or not many) about translating them into the local language. But that did begin to change, with Luther doing so much of his writing in German, and with the publication of the 1st Bible in German.

  5. This is a beautiful list…almost a manifesto for post-Evangelicalism.

    Also, I find it hard to see Adam’s expression in the Law side of that painting as anything but “WTF, man?!”

  6. Thanks for this amazing list – very interesting points!

    As someone raised Catholic and now attending a Protestant church, I feel it is all about my retuning to the truth of the Gospel. A truth that professes relationship with Christ and an interactive relationship with His written Word.

  7. David Cornwell says

    We should give up on the designation Protestant, by letting it die. I’m not sure what this “protest” amounts to in the twenty-first century. What specifically, is still being protested? After all we have taken ourselves out of the Roman Catholic Church, and for a long time have had our own church families, the many divisions of which are called “denominations.” The various denominations are the children our branch of the Church has produced. Each of them has a different name. But they remain in the Protestant family. In leaving the RCC, and starting our own family of churches, we let it be known that there was very little about our former family that we liked. But that was a long time ago. To hang on to the Protestant designation after so many years sounds like a child who many years ago threw a tantrum because of being angry at Papa. He was too demanding, too authoritative, was corrupt, and had some ideas that were damaging to the family. So the reformers walked out in protest and became known as Protestants.

    However the Church that launched the protest is all grown up now ? — or at least ought to be. Therefore it should no longer have the character of the angry Church of five hundred years ago. Many of the arguments that made sense then, no longer work. And if we still have issues with the RCC, they should no longer have the nature of “protest.” And there should not be the need to fight even though disagreements still exist. Now our own family has multiplied into thousands of fragments disagreeing with each other over almost anything. We have serious trouble sharing the same table with each other, or at even having conversation.

    So it makes sense to me just to drop the “Protestant” label. It no longer has a usefulness. There is a need to prayerfully look for something else. After all we are Christ’s Church. Our differences with the RCC and with our brothers and sisters of other denominations have become an offense to the world. They are a huge stumbling block. Protestantism needs to die. Some say it is already dead, although I have my doubts.

    Peter J. Leithart gets at this in his article The End of Protestantism, where he says “The Reformation isn’t over. But Protestantism is, or should be.” Further on he puts it thus

    “Protestantism is a negative theology; a Protestant is a not-Catholic. Whatever Catholics say or do, the Protestant does and says as close to the opposite as he can. …

    “ Protestantism ought to give way to Reformational catholicism. Like a Protestant, a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary or the saints; he insists that salvation is a sheer gift of God received by faith and confesses that all tradition must be judged by Scripture, the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church. …”

    I urge you to read Lethart’s entire post. What he says has profound possibilities for the unity of Christ’s Church. Let the idea of “Protestant” die.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “We should give up on the designation Protestant, by letting it die.”

      Agree, it is a term of historical designation at this point; it doesn’t do much to identify any doctrine or practice.

      “”Therefore it should no longer have the character of the angry Church of five hundred years ago.””

      Generally I do not feel that it does; I do not think Anger defines modern Protestantism. It is that the term has now stretched so far that it does not mean much of anything other than historically-seperated-from-the-RCC. Unlike “Evangelicalism” which has an entire media empire dedicated to defining itself the term “Protestant” is entirely historic.

      At some point a big-umbrella ceases to be an umbrella and just becomes the sky – Protestantism has reached that point – awhile ago.

      “””So it makes sense to me just to drop the “Protestant” label. It no longer has a usefulness.””””

      But labels are weird; people will stick with them even without usefulness. How many people do I know who would never listen to Ed’s Focus On The Family radio show… but still insist they are Evangelical? If they insist to a crowed that they are Evangelical they only accomplish confusion.

      “””Our differences with the RCC and with our brothers and sisters of other denominations have become an offense to the world. They are a huge stumbling block. “””

      Fortunately or not I disagree. The world is not offended. It has been quite awhile since the church(es) have given the world much reason to care either way. I like Peter Enns’ response to the hand wringing over the scandal at The Gospel Coalition which many cried was a further disgrace upon The Church: “No, the world isn’t watching. Most of the world hasn’t heard of TGC, Tchividjian, Carson, Keller, etc. A few people are watching, and I’d be willing to bet most are looking on more in a voyeuristic manner, rooting for their side, but otherwise not missing a beat in the daily lives. Souls are not being won or lost here.”

      These arguments and divisions dropped out of the zeitgeist a generation ago. Those still fighting over them are boxing with ghosts.

      “””Peter J. Leithart … “The Reformation isn’t over. But Protestantism is, “Like a Protestant, a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary….””””

      With all due respect to Mr. Leithart this *still* sounds like a reactionary definition which is defined against some other.

      • I agree. I don’t think “the world” cares about Christian divisions, or Christian unity. The only church body with a high profile is the Roman Catholic Church, and the only Christian the world pays much attention to is the Pope (and not just this Pope).

        I’m pretty firmly Protestant, but I have to acknowledge that Protestantism is mostly defined by reaction to that which is external to it rather than its own inner creativity.

  8. Ben Carmack says

    Here’s a good response to the spirit and substance of this post from Peter Escalante.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I think the article is actually evidence of how far into the weeds one must go to maintain The Reformation as a principle moment.

      “””shows how American sectarianism is not in fact classical Protestantism, but rather a feral half-Protestantism, and how the means of overcoming it, and of extending the reign of Christ, are already present in the depositum of classical Protestant faith”””

      This sounds like just yet more Reformational Fever. Now you have, again, the True Protestantism separated from “feral half-Protestantism” [aside: I do enjoy his rhetorical flourish].

      This is Protestantism as something like a serpent which must shed its skin every season, always casting off the constraints of what has contaminated it. Except that each time it sheds its skin it grows smaller rather than larger.

      Rhetorically I would rather argue that the Feral has redeeming quality. The feral dog is the dog which has survived; it considered its situation and successfully exercised the opportunities presented. I would rather be in that dog’s pack. Abraham, David, Ester, et al where some magnificently opportunistic folks.

  9. Ben Carmack says

    “The objections to Reformation Day are are that it is anachronistic at best and uncharitable at worst. That it can be uncharitably commemorated I am the first to grant; that it is inherently uncharitable, I do not. Celebration of truth winning, especially winning against great odds, is never uncharitable.” — Peter Escalante

    • I’m much more in agreement with Jaroslav Pelikan and his take on the Reformation – that it was a tragic necessity, that brought great perils and problems even as it championed necessary reforms. I may need a major operation, but I’m not going to throw a party every year to commemorate it afterwards.

      • Yes,

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “””I may need a major operation, but I’m not going to throw a party every year to commemorate it afterwards.”””

        An excellent metaphor!

      • Did you know that Pelikan converted to Eastern Orthodoxy after being a lifelong Lutheran?

      • Ben Carmack says

        I’m not suprised at the negative response to Escalante’s point of view, given the venue. What is ironic to me, from a “people watching” point of view, is that although we live in a time of deep cynicism toward and distrust of authority and established social mores, for some reason it remains vogue to go “High Church” and to engage is fashionable Protestant self loathing.

        We don’t want any tradition or authority…unless it comes dressed in a lace alb and an ostenatious chausuble. Then we’re all about it. And we will proclaim our disgust for ignorant rabble rousers who “interpreted the Bible for themselves.” It’s an odd cultural moment that seems to take place pretty much exclusively among older, white, high educated types with an ill defined preference for tradition and high Western culture similar to some people’s affectation for skinny jeans, craft beer and vintage vinyl records.

        • Peace, Ben. Protestantism has flaws, and Roman Catholicism has its own. Although I’m suspicious of many of the private interpretations of Scripture that came down from the Reformation, I for one have no intention of returning to my Catholic roots. For me, all the fuss over Saints and Rosaries is an impediment to my ability to know Jesus Christ mediated only by Scripture, and to live from the grace that does not depend on my competence in works (though works are inevitable) or belief (though beliefs are unavoidable).

          I personally value the Reformation insight into the primacy of grace, and the prodigality of the God who extends it; that the motives that drove the Reformation were imperfect and impure, and to a great extent non-religious, as Adam has pointed out above, makes no difference: it’s no theological novelty to recognize that the God who is at work in Jesus Christ may make use of the most scandalous and compromised means to make himself known and heard afresh.

          But the Church did not start at the Reformation, grace did not start at the Reformation, and the churches that are the offspring of the Reformation have failed again and again to live into the grace they proclaim. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church has not infrequently embodied the radical grace that Protestantism has claimed as its own heritage.

  10. The blog “Lutheran Confessions” currently has a good post on the Reformation.

  11. Christiane says

    being Catholic, I have welcomed Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air in the Body of Christ . . . I think he will be remembered as a man who, by his own example, has brought many to re-examine their own Christian walk.

    I was reading Father Ernesto’s wonderful blog where he tells this story from the Desert Fathers:
    ‘ “A brother who had sinned was turned out of the church by the priest. Abba Bessarion got up and went out with him, saying, “I, too, am a sinner.””

    and I thought, yes, that story reminds me of Pope Francis’ statement that he is a sinner on whom the Lord has looked, and that story reminds me also of Francis’ unwillingness to judge those on whom the Pharisees had looked . . .

    could it be that the true reformers in The Church are those who get us to ‘see’ Christ more clearly, because they have begun to LIVE actively nourished by the blessings of the Holy Spirit . . . patience, kindness, compassion, long-suffering, humility ???

    The Church is sent out to ’embrace the leper’, not judge him. If someone would recognize a ‘reformer’, let them recognize the ones who reject self-righteousness for what it is, and bring the love of Christ to those who need Him, without judgement . . . and with that one aspect of the Creator that the ‘self-righteous’ can never celebrate: mercy, like that of Our Lord

    ‘Reformers’ . . . we need them, the ones who point to Christ . . . with loving-kindness, with mercy, with compassion, with humility, with self-sacrificing ministry . . . we need reformers whose lives are modeled on Our Lord’s example

  12. Steve Newell says

    Luther and the early reformers did not want to create a new church but to reform what they say was wrong with the Roman Church. If you go to a Lutheran worship, it will use the history liturgy, it will use the Creeds, it will use the lectionary. It is a conservative reformation since it accepts those traditions that do not contradict Holy Scripture.

    The irony is that Luther had real issues with the “radical reformers” such as Ulrich Zwingli since Zwingli rejected the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion or the Anabaptist rejection of Holy Baptism as a sacrament.

    • In a very non-conciliar way, Luther interpreted Scripture by himself in his study, and started a movement based on his interpretations; when others soon followed his example by doing the same thing, he got pissed off. He should’ve done a reality check.

  13. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    I’ve often wondered how different the world would have looked if Martin Luther had just joined the Eastern Orthodox church – they don’t sell or believe in indulgences or many of the other things that Martin Luther had his panties in a twist about. But, noooo he thought that only he could correctly interpret scriptures.

    • I think you are kind of not grasping Luther’s original propositions? It’s not that he and he only thought that he was capable of correctly interpreting the Bible – not by a long shot.

      It is, however, a curious mixture of things, some good, and some bad, and (thinking of his later anti-semitic rantings) some very horrible.

      Still, miles off from the Orthodox church on most points. I think Luther and his contemporaries would have been baffled by that.

      • I mis-worded that: it’s not that Luther thought that he and he alone was…

      • numo,
        Do you really think that Luther didn’t consider his own interpretations of Scripture as uniquely authoritative in comparison with the many others that followed in its wake? I can’t help but have the impression from what I’ve read that in the beginning he expected that what he had started would stop with him; when it didn’t, he hoped that by the end of his life reconciliation could be found among the various reform movements and their interpretations of Scripture, with his being the controlling one; and when that didn’t happen, and he saw his own death approaching, he became more and more bitter and angry, and violent.

        • I cannot know what he though, or how he thought, or why, really, because the man was a mess – deeply conflicted, and very confusing.

          What happened in the early days, in Germany alone, is so complex that I cannot comprehend how any single person could insist that their interpretation, and theirs alone, was right – let alone once the Anabaptists came on the scene, in Germany and the Low Countries.

          It is all hugely confused, and confusing, history. The more you delve into the religious movements of the time, the crazier things get. The late John Hostetler (Mennonite sociologist, raised Amish) cited a whole bunch of fringe movements that *none* of us has ever heard of at the beginning of his book, The Amish. I mean, truly over-the-edge kinds of things that took hold during the time period. (Like people who babbled, believing that the admonition to become like little children was to be taken *that* literally.)

        • I think his principal disagreements had to do with the nature of the sacraments, communion in particular.

          And yes, he was a bitter, angry – I’d say furious – man during the latter part of his life.

        • I also think that he had NO idea of what he had unleashed. Foresight was not one of his strong points, and he especially loathed those who wanted change in social order, based on reforms within the church.

          I think they were largely right, but he opposed them bitterly. No wonder, when (I think) he likely believed that the social system of the time was divinely ordered. Not to mention the various margraves, princes, etc. who were in his camp…

  14. From M. Spencer’s original post:

    I no longer believe Luther ever intended to slay the Catholic Church…

    This was never true, even though many people believe it. It is a misinterpretation of Luther’s intent, which was reform from within.

    But it didn’t exactly work out that way. [understatement]

    • About Luther, the French Catholic novelist Georges Bernanos had this to say:

      “He…had become maddened, and taken the bit between his teeth, like a farm-horse putting his great foot into a wasp’s nest. He rushed off clumsily on his four hooves, and when he stopped — not because he was tired, to be sure, but to see where he was, recover his breath, and examine his wounds — the old Church was already a long way behind him, at an immense, incalculable distance, separated from him for a whole eternity…”

  15. I find it interesting that for Luther the insight he had about grace while reading Romans was important not least because it moved him so powerfully, and touched him in the emotional place where he had experienced struggle for so long regarding the sense of the inadequacy of himself and his works. This central place of emotion in the spiritual life has typified Protestantism ever since.

    • I’m not sure one can equate that experience with, say, the kinds of primacy of emotion that are typical of much evangelicalism, of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement, etc.

      He and his closest advisors and comrades worked out catechisms, the Augsburg Confession, etc. There is no place for emotionalism in those.

      But certainly, Erasmus he was not.

  16. I am becoming increasingly sure that many things in the typical Reformation story are probably mythological, or most nearly so.

    Any ideas as to what “things” he is referring to?

    • Well, doesn’t he list at least some of them in the other statements he makes after that one?

      • Some, but I was uncertain if those were in addition to the statement or part of his statement. I was wondering if there were more specific unmentioned things that people might be aware of that I am not. I grew up Lutheran but knew some of the things IM referred to as his current understanding – they aren’t part of a mythology that people taught me. Perhaps it is a difference between mainline Protestantism and Evangelical churches.

        • (I also wondered if, by “mythological” he meant there were stories told about Luther that are similar/analogous to the stories told about other historical people such as Washington (cutting down cherry tree/can’t tell lie etc) – nice but probably not true)

          • I understand.

            All I can say is that I’ll be terribly disappointed if all the mythology about Luther’s fascination with flatulence turns out to be untrue.

          • Robert, i think you can rest assured that Luther’s scatalogical tendencies are quite real.

    • There are a lot of apocryphal stories about Luther that have become part of German folklore, and Lutheran folklore, too. The one about throwing his inkwell at the devil, for example. Also, “Table Talk” is full of all manner of oddball things attributed to Luther, but it’s difficult to prove their suthenticity.

      Am sure this is true of other msjor Reformation figures as well.

  17. Maybe Luther’s main mistake, and by extension the main mistake of the Reformation, was in thinking that his reform should “succeed”; if he had paid attention to his own Theology of the Cross, he might have been able to see that the God who not infrequently works through apparent total failure might not intend him, or the Reformation, to “succeed”.
    Perhaps the fractured and divided state of Christianity that we’ve inherited, the failure of Christianity to manifest unity, contains within it a unity better and wider than we can imagine, but only as seen through the lens of the Cross.

    • I think he did believe that the regorms he was trying to bring about would make sense to the Curia, because they were true (as he saw thrm). He thought pretty much the same about Jewish people: once regorms were in place, they would inevitably convert to xtianity. He just didn’t have any understanding of why Judaism existed, and what Jewish people had suffered at the hsnds of xtians. Whrn this mass conversion failed to occur, he started getting primed for screeds like “On the Jews and Their Lies.” (Which is one of the worst anti-semitic, anti-Judaic thing ever written.)

      I know CM has reviewed some of Heiko Obermann’s [sp?] work on Luther in the past; might be worth checking out those posts. I haven’t read much of his wirk, but think he’s got some great insights, although i also disagree with him on some points. Still, he sees Luther as a late medieval man, and i think that’s accurate. The Renaissance spread slowly, once it started filtering north of the Alps.

  18. I think it’s OK to look back at the Reformation the same way that Hebrews 11 looks back at the “cloud of witnesses” in the Old Testament. In the context of their original stories (such as Moses fleeing Egypt), many of them do not look like heroes of faith at all. They are responding to the immediacies of their situation. It is only in hindsight that their path seems to be towards a greater destiny.