The coming vindication of Martin Luther – preface

31 Oct

Part V, Part IV, Part III, Part II, Part I

The serious Lutheran is confident that Martin Luther and those who follow in his train will, for the most part, be vindicated by God on the last day.

But will he be vindicated by the Church?  I think it is indeed likely that in the future more reflective persons who claim Christ will also embrace Martin Luther’s core biblical insights, and in this short series I am going to make that argument as best I can, based on what I take to be the key facts of how Luther’s conflict with Rome played out in history.  All of this has to do with truth increasingly coming to light.

This series will consist of five parts, posted in reverse order (one every other day hopefully starting on Reformation day, later today).  Part V will provide a summary of the case, as well as a collection of links which make further arguments regarding the tragic necessity of the Lutheran Reformation.   In part IV, I will draw parallels with other great heroes of the faith who stood against error encroaching in the Church: Athanasius, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, and Maximus the Confessor.  In part III, I will show how Luther, against his will, was eventually left with nothing but the Scriptures to cling to.  In part II, I will talk about the earliest things in his life that appear to have laid the groundwork for the break with Rome.  Finally, in part I, I will point out that Luther was a “loyal son of the Pope” – up until the point where he could no longer see a way to be so.

A few points:

Again, I will post part V, the conclusion, first.  I will then work back to part I.

Second, the key sources that I use in my argument will be the Lutheran historian Scott Hendrix’s “Luther and the Papacy” (Heiko Oberman: “a vivid and comprehensive historical account…. a sensitive and forceful book”), as well as Eastern Orthodox historian Olivier Clement’s “You Are Peter: An Orthodox Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy” (perhaps to his horror, I confess).

Third, this series is not primarily directed to Roman Catholics – or even cheerleading Lutherans – but  to all of Christendom.  It is fascinating that even many Lutheran and Reformed theologians think that on the doctrine of justification by faith they have no differences, but this is hardly the case (see here  and here).  This author contends that these differences exist not so much because Luther is hard to understand, but rather because justification as envisioned by Luther cannot be understood apart from its practical application, particularly in acts of confession and absolution – i.e. attempting to “freeze”  it in tidy dogmatic formulas, while sometimes helpful, can also give a wrong impression.

I hope you will join me to explore some of the historical circumstances surrounding Luther’s interactions with the Roman Catholic magisterium in the days leading up to his excommunication.   I think that Luther is a figure that deserves a second look – and more, if necessary.  As Hendrix notes, Luther was motivated to advocate for the people’s right to hear the Word of God – and he always contended that the papacy, along with all the pastors in the Church, should “nurture the people by communicating the word of God to them” – (xi, xii).

Yesterday’s post: Unchildlike Reformation Eve

First image from

Second image from


Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “The coming vindication of Martin Luther – preface

  1. Nathaniel

    October 31, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Every schismatic (from the Catholic Church) in history has been “a “loyal son of the Pope” – up until the point where he [can] no longer see a way to be so” — except for any who are willing to admit that they have opted for schism although it was unnecessary.

    If you know of any schismatics in the latter bucket, do tell. I think they pretty much all fall into the first one.

  2. infanttheology

    October 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm


    Its going to be hard to continue our dialogue if that is all you want to talk about. : )



  3. Nathaniel

    November 3, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Hi Nathan,

    I’m wondering if you consider Luther’s loyalty, up to the point that he could no longer see how to maintain it, to be a mark that sets him apart from other schismatics and heretics in history.

    I don’t think such a comparison or contrast with other figures is ground we’ve already covered.

    Feast of All Souls

  4. infanttheology

    November 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm


    “I’m wondering if you consider Luther’s loyalty, up to the point that he could no longer see how to maintain it, to be a mark that sets him apart from other schismatics and heretics in history.”

    Yes, I think so. As best as I can tell, there is a qualitative difference between Luther and Calvin, for example, who seemed to have a different spirit as regards these issues. Based on what I know about Luther, I think he loved the Church more than most any man ever has – and that he did not relish at all his role of speaking the hard truths. I know that that probably sounds impossible for most catholics to believe. In this series, I hope in part to demonstrate this.



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