Each term we enjoy “diving deeply” into a specific topic during a weekend seminar. This past fall, we hosted the seminar, “500 Years Later: The Reformation and its Lasting Impact.” See descriptions of all three lectures here (scroll down the page to Autumn 2017), and read on for Mardi’s summary of her lecture on Martin Luther. During our Winter 2018 term, we will host the seminar, “To Live in Peace in a World with Conflict,” with three lectures from Dick Keyes. More details on that to come!
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, protesting widespread Church corruption and abuse. The Protestant Reformation which he birthed recovered the Bible’s teaching that salvation is available by grace, through faith, to anyone who repents and believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Christian and non-Christian scholars also credit Luther with a critical turning point in the significance and value of the individual in Western culture. His belief that every person is an Image of God made him remarkably egalitarian for his time.
Fewer people are aware of Luther’s impact on marriage and family life. A host of scholars trace the celebration of married love and companionship to the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, and particularly to the writings and surprising marriage of Martin Luther to the runaway nun, Katherina von Bora.
As states and provinces converted to Protestantism, one of the most contentious debates between Protestants and Catholics was over the role and value of marriage. The Medieval Church exalted celibacy and condemned clerical marriage. Marriage was a “necessary evil”, procreation was the only legitimate purpose for sex, and enjoyment of sexual relations was denounced as sinful. In contrast, Luther argued from Scripture and Creation that marriage is a “glorious estate” and family life (in contrast to a monastery) was the surest context for growth in Christian character and holiness. He recommended marriage to priests and layman alike, but had no intention himself of marrying, as he expected to be burned at the stake as a heretic. Find out what changed Luther’s mind! His marriage was a dramatic form of iconoclasm directed against the ‘false saintliness’ of the ascetic of God, who forsakes all things ‘worldly’. For Luther, ‘to be ‘saintly’ meant to be near his ‘dear housewife’ and ‘to be (her) lover now’.” It meant “God allows us to laugh and embrace our wives, whether naked or clothed!”