Luther and Rome
Tonight I once again watched the movie Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes. This is a great movie and I recommend it to everyone. With that said I do have to add that it is a movie and therefore it is not to be taken has a total history of Luther or his times. But it is, I believe, a fairly accurate account of those parts of history that it touches.
Luther was a very interesting man. He was a man of great courage and conviction. He was, I believe, greatly used by God to accomplish much good. He was also a man with many faults, and those faults did much to damage and divide the same faith that he desired to see reformed.
Luther was a brilliant man and a passionate man. Much in what he wrote is wonderful to read and uplifting to the soul, but some of what he wrote is shameful and has done a great deal to blemished His name and work.
I know some Roman Catholics who despise him and count him among the worst of criminals. They see the Western Church divided into so many sects and blame Luther for those divisions. I think those who think that way have it backwards. Luther did not divide the Church and he did not bring about its division. The Church was divided by the acts of Rome.
Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses against the abuses then common in the sale of indulgences. The paper was not written against the Pope or Rome, in fact Luther was surprised to learn that the Pope was against what he had written. Pope Leo X was more disturbed by the loss of revenue that followed the publication of Luther’s Theses than he was by the doctrines in them. Pope Leo was using monies raised by the sale of indulgences (much of it coming from Germany) to build St. Peter’s Basilica. After Luther attacked the despicable practice of indulgences (forgiveness of sin and salvation were commodity offered by the Church for cash money) the money coming into Rome through the selling indulgences in Germany dropped off substantially.
Rome, Pope Leo, caused the breach. He, not Luther is more responsible for the initial division in the Western Church. Leo, like so many of the Renaissance Popes before him, was a corrupt man of the world who cared little for spiritual matters. Had there been a godly man seated in the Chair of St. Peter the Church would not have been torn apart.
Luther’s actions and the actions of others were in response to the wrongful response of Rome. Every person will stand before God and answer for his/her sins. Luther was a man with many faults and when he sinned he did so passionately, but he was also a man of faith who repented passionately as well. Christ’s blood covers the sins of all of us who repent (truly) and I believe Luther was such a man. I do not believe Pope Leo X was such a man. I don’t believe he will reside eternally in the same place as Luther and I believe Luther will be resurrected, even with his many failings, to eternal live in Jesus Christ.
This is not written as an anti-Roman Catholic rant. There is much about the Roman Catholic Church that I love and respect. There have even been times when I have wished that I could return to Rome (but it is not possible). I also desire to see Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Christians come together and work toward Christian unity as the Scripture teach. I also believe we must call a spade a spade, but we should do so in a loving, and when possible, diplomatic way. It does none of us any good when we call the other guy’s spade a “damned shovel.”