First Things recently re-posted something that the highly respected evangelical theologian and historian Timothy George wrote about the Reformation three years ago.
First of all, even though Dr. George speaks favorably of the Joint Declaration on Justification, he also says this:
“On these and many other issues related to authority and ecclesiology, the way forward is not to smudge over deep differences that remain between the two traditions but to acknowledge them openly and to continue to struggle over them together in prayer and in fresh engagement with the Scriptures. The way forward is an ecumenism of conviction, not an ecumenism of accommodation.”
A couple other quotes from his article:
“On this Reformation Day, it is good to remember that Martin Luther belongs to the entire Church, not only to Lutherans and Protestants, just as Thomas Aquinas is a treasury of Christian wisdom for faithful believers of all denominations, not simply for Dominicans and Catholics.”
“Franz-Josef Bode, the Catholic Bishop of Osnabrück in northern Germany, when he preached on Luther at an ecumenical service[, said:]… “It’s fascinating… just how radically Luther puts God at the center.”
“The triumph of grace in the theology of Luther was—and still is—in the service of the whole Body of Christ. Luther was not without his warts, and we can hardly imagine him canonized as a saint. (Remember: simul iustus et peccator!) But the question Karl Barth asked about him in 1933 is still worth pondering this Reformation Day: “What else was Luther than a teacher of the Christian church whom one can hardly celebrate in any other way but to listen to him?”
Recently, in an interview with Dr. Albert Mohler (about his new book Reading Scripture with the Reformers), Dr. George said the following:
“I want to make a confession on your program here that I have never said before publicly. You know, I love Luther, and I love Calvin, and I probably would say even now, I am closer to Calvin than to Luther on most things. But, as I have gotten older and read more of both of them, I find myself drawn more and more back to Luther because I think Luther was the one great geniuses of the reformation. Calvin and others certainly built upon and extended and in some ways solidified his views. That is why if anything, you are right to say, “I tilt my head to Luther more than anybody else.” I think we probably have more to learn from him than anybody else.”
Of course, readers of this blog know that I will heartily second Dr. George in his urging us to listen to Luther. Likewise that we likely have more to learn from him than anyone else. And yet, to truly learn like we should, I think it best to not only listen to what the man said but also to observe what he did. I’m not so convinced that his actions were any less “saintly” than other great figures of church history.
Image from http://beesondivinity.com/timothygeorge_1