Most know about the 95 theses Luther drove into the cathedral door, condemning indulgences and other false practices of the catholic church in 1517. Others know that he brought about the German bible from the Latin Vulgate, spawning the reformation movement, which gave rise to 570 million followers today. But as if the German princes and Luther himself knew that a film would be made to sensationalize their works, they scripted a scene with dialogue so perfect it can’t be told any other way.
About to be condemned to the inquisition for heresy against the church, the princes and cardinals gather to request a single answer from Luther as to his works. Unsatisifed by his reasonable replies, they ask for a single yes or no. He obliges. Usage, right and observance, says the cardinal, have proven the doctrines of the Pope. You wait in vain for a disputation for things you are obligated to believe!
“Unless I am convinced by scripture and by plain reason, and not by the Popes and counsels that have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of god, to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot, and I will not, recant.
“Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” And so He did. From that moment, there was a rupture in all of christendom. It shook the foundation of Rome, schismed Europe, and left millions of free-thinking christians in its wake.
Can you say, Enlightenment?
All serious joking aside, let’s take a look at how this reflects Enlightenment principles. In the own words of the Cardinal, the doctrines practiced by the Catholic church at the time of Martin Luther were, in fact, not scripturally based, but induced by the Pope to fund buildings and colorful robes. Instead of ingesting the distasteful bolus, Luther (thanks to being in the right German school with the right bowl/bald haircut) decides to cook up doctrines according to the recipes he finds directly from the New Testament. That’s when he discovers Rome definitely changed the ingredients. So he wants to debate the doctrines and reform the church. He takes laws (scripture) that he believes to be true, and wants to discuss them, and come to his own conclusions. He is, in the words of the actor playing prince Fredrick, an “independent minded little monk.” He thinks for himself. Wasn’t it Kant who said, “Man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage”?
THe Catholic church didn’t want just luther to hush up, they didn’t want ANYBODY to think for themselves. They said, “NOBODY READS THE BIBLE AT ALL!!!!” They kept the bible in its latin form, the vulgate, so nobody could read it save the very educated with authorization. Luther wouldn’t have it. In exile, he translates the New Testament into German, a translation which Joseph Smith would later write “the most correct translation I have ever read”. Luther gave an empirical piece of work for everyone to read and think about for themselves. As the people shattered the windows of the church, letting the light pierce the colored glass and rebound off the glistening cup of christ, so did Luther shatter dogmas filtering the gospel to the German people.
On top of that, he renounced the practice of celibacy so he could marry a hot nun.
Just as a tangent, one of my new favorite quotes is from the Father who planted seeds in Luther from the start to reform the church. On hearing Luther’s doubt in himself to teach the doctrines, he told him, “”We preach best what we need learn most.” Great advice for a Chemistry TA who doesn’t know what he’s doing half the time!!!
Thank you Luther for independent thought, throwing off the fetters of tradition, and staying true to your own beliefs and reason.
This is a portrait of what Martin Luther really looked like. Had I used it at the beginning, you probably wouldn’t have even considered reading this blog, since Joseph Fiennes is much more a handsome stallion. You basically would have been practicing eugenics. Sorry.