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Be Like Luther: Don’t Outsource Your Thinking

Ideally I would be posting this before Reformation Day/Halloween…but I’ve come to realize as a mother that these things don’t always happen as planned. But here we are…!

I’ve always found the figure of Martin Luther to be inspiring. From what we know, he was just a humble, unassuming monk before he went and changed the world. He seems to me to be a rather feisty, passionate man and I admire his courage as one man to stand up to the world for the sake of what he believed was true.

Who was Luther?

Quick history recap for those less familiar, Luther was the first to start questioning some of the practices of the institution of the Catholic Church in his day; particularly the practices and concepts of indulgences (you pay or do some deed for the forgiveness of sins) and purgatory (the idea that after death you still have unforgiven sin and must wait for the deeds of others to free you). One of the reasons these practices were widely accepted is due to the fact that the Catholic Church had a strangle-hold on “truth” because only they had ready access to the Bible and taught that only they could distill the information there and make it fit for public consumption. Also, there was much profit to be seen for the Catholic Church in the commercializing of forgiveness. Pilgrims would pay whatever necessary to see the bones of various saints, perform certain acts of penance, free those they loved from purgatory, and more.

One of the more chilling things for me to realize while I was touring Rome a few years back, was that the Basilica of St. Peter, which was of course gorgeous, was in part, paid for by the sales of these indulgences during Luther’s day. After I realized that, the Basilica took on a different, more nefarious meaning since it was born on the exploitation and profit of false doctrines.

Back to Luther’s day, fast forward a few years and he is standing before a council in Worms and is being asked to recant his teachings against the Catholic church. The lone, small voice against the entire might of Rome. His speech in response is one of the most inspiring in history. (What follows is an abridged version from the 2003 movie but I think it really captures the spirit well)

Since Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain Reason — and not by Popes and Councils who 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.

Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, Luther (2003) movie version

Who are the “Popes and Councils” today?

I think it is important to take this “spirit of Luther” and apply it daily, now more than ever. What do I mean by that? I believe all people need to have a source of truth that is static and unchanging. Something that we can access directly that will act as our anchor throughout history, unaffected by public opinion. If you look back on history, there are so many times when the world and it’s rulers made decisions or changed definitions of things to suit their purposes. If you are relying on these authorities and governments as your compass of truth, you will find yourself led astray just like the Christians of Luther’s day. One key example of this is anytime we have allowed governing authorities to define what a human life looks like and it’s level of worth. Here are three ways that was put to the test to tragic end.

Slavery in America- Black slaves were less than human because in the chain of evolution they were less evolved, as evidenced by their skin color. Science. Ok, if they are less than human than these actions enslaving them are validated. In fact, it’s probably best for them.

The Holocaust – Jews were of a different race, guilty of killing Jesus, and among other lies, barriers to German peace. Science. “Religion”. Politics. Ok, if they are different race and guilty of these crimes, we are validated in ostracizing and sending them to Concentration camps resulting in their deaths.

Abortion – Fetuses in the womb are not yet fully human, just a clump of cells. Care of children is a burden on the mother’s life pursuits. Science. Culture. Ok, so we are validated in “terminating the pregnancy” since it is not yet a life, and a burdensome one at that.

Let’s turn back to the compass of Truth, God’s Word, and do a litmus test on those ideas. What does God say about life? We were created in God’s image, male and female. All men and women are created equal and deserve equal dignity. We are all descended from one man and woman. One race. The Bible also says life starts before birth. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”. Psalm 139:13. Christians following this compass contributed to push back on all three of those tragedies…and they still do in the case of abortion.

Do you see how the path starts? You begin to make those in authority your primary source of truth: government agencies, political figures, medical or scientific authorities, even religious institutions….and they rely on your trust in their authority and knowledge to eventually take advantage of that to their own ends. Perhaps you were lured in by reasonable beliefs or “scientific” thinking (don’t get me started on what science is defined as today, that’s another blog post entirely). It is important to note that sometimes these positions of authority can be right and good. It’s not as simple as saying “reject all authority”. But sometimes these lies can sneak up on us after having been spoon-fed easy truths up to that point. Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf? What I’m saying is that at no point should we let our guard down for the pursuit of truth and we should be constantly holding these ideas up to a metric of truth that stands outside of culture and public opinion, something that has stood the test of time. I believe that metric is God’s Word. Unchanging, eternal truth that supersedes culture and what we are being told is right in the moment.

This could be our “Luther moment”

We need to be like Luther. Today more than ever. The message I’m receiving today is, “You aren’t qualified to make these judgments. Let those who are of higher education make these determinations for you. We follow science and you should trust our interpretation of that.” Does this sound familiar? What did the Pope and the religious authorities tell Luther and the people back in their day? We have access to truth and are the only ones qualified to distill it for you. Luther got ahold of the truth for himself and was able to pull the curtain back on the greedy exploitation of God’s forgiveness of sins. How did he do this? He relied on three things: Scripture, plain reason (logic), and his own conscience.

When it comes to making conclusions about groups of people, determining methods of Christian worship, the formulation of society, and really every facet of life, you need to look to the truth that never changes, and not as Luther said to “Popes and councils that have so often contradicted themselves”. Do not outsource your thinking. Now, to be clear, this isn’t a free pass to push untested personal opinions! Luther studied God’s word and wrestled with God and the Devil before he came to these conclusions. Before you rely on your conscience, make sure it is first captive to the Word of God, not human emotion, do your research, then don’t be afraid to speak out!

One voice with the truth can change the world. Here we stand, we can do no other. So help us God.

1 thought on “Be Like Luther: Don’t Outsource Your Thinking”

  1. This article is an excellent reminder that the Reformation is an eternal, ongoing issue. Every generation must decide its source of truth and the truth must come from the Lord or will end up like all the rest of the people who were controlled by these people. This is an excellent article to remind us that we can’t outsource any of our thinking. The greatest needed in this hour right now is critical thinking. Read this article and pass it on to someone else. Let the reformation of truth begin with us.

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