I haven’t written a book report since my teens but here I go.
In the atmosphere in which we live there is not a lot of room for gracious talk and the delightful turn of phrase. Words are blunt instruments and the world view that God is in control of all things is denied in word and deed. We have descended to the point where public folks have to defend being seen in public with political adversaries. Judges are censured for giving people that they sentenced to jail a Bible and offering to pray for them. Words like compassion and “values” have become meaningless and most words mean whatever the speaker want them to mean
At the same time as we gear up for Reformation Day at the end of October, I have to recognize that the Reformation Era was not known for gracious treatment of religious or political foes. Banishment from towns and villages for political speech was common. People who wrote what authorities considered to be agitating violence might have their writing hand chopped off. And of course, there was always the stake and the fire. Luther was not known for his tact and gracious words at times when he faced those who he believed were denying God glory and forcing others to “misbelief, despair and other great shame or vice.’ He called himself a maggot sack so you might be able to imagine what he called others who disagreed with him.
I came across some gracious words from the Reformation era that I was not prepared to see. I have studied the history of the Reformation and I have never heard of a woman by the name of Argula Von Grumbach. She was a minor member of the aristocracy and became convinced in the truth of Martin Luther’s theology. She had a way with words and the ability to write some amazing letters that were quickly reprinted in pamphlet form. She went after a large University who had arrested and threatened a student teaching assistant. He lectured on justification by grace through faith and the centrality of Christ in the scriptures. He taught that Jesus died to save sinners and that his forgiveness couldn’t be bought, earned or bargained for, it was free. So of course, the 18 year old was censured and arrested and threatened with death. Argula went after the University professors with her pen. She was called a devil and a witch.
Yet her writing and demeanor seems to have been gracious and meant to convict and convince, and not destroy. She wrote to a prince excoriating him for not standing up for the Gospel at a meeting of Bavarian princes but ended up commending him to the “gracious friendliness of Christ”. It was that phrase that I picked up somewhere that led me to read about this remarkable women. An author by the name of Peter Matheson found an old prayer book written by Martin Luther and personally dedicated to Argula, in a musty library in Berlin and began researching her remarkable life. She was in contact with almost every major reformer and theologian. It is clear that she was a theologian in her own right. Calling her a feminist would be silly, especially in this day and age, but she was a powerful spokesperson, and beautifully expressed her faith. Read Peter Matheson’s book, “Argula von Grumbach; A Women before Her Time”. Cascade Books Eugene Oregon.