I have been reading a lot of Luther and a lot about Luther in the last few weeks. Since it is his birth month (11/10/1483) and we are in that time of the church year that we wind down through days of warning and judgement and the end of days, I like to read the great reformers thoughts and ideas about the end and what the Christian response to it should be made. It is also interesting to see what things he was blamed for in the day and what he is blamed for now.
I was a bit stunned to find out that Luther, blamed for all kinds of “isms” over the years, is considered the Father of Liberalism. Of all the things that he could possibly blamed for, like the lowering of standards in discourse for instance, liberalism would never come to my mind. Yet a recent article in the Concordia Theological Quarterly written by Korey Maas, called “Luther and Liberalism”. lists these things as the result of Luther’s Reformation –
Hyper pluralism of divergent secular and religious truth claims –
Individuals pursuing their desires whatever they happen to be –
Highly bureaucratized sovereign states wielding a monopoly of public power –
The hegemonic cultural glue of all pervasive capitalism and consumerism.
No shared substantive common good, nor any realistic prospects for devising one.
Now before you going running off in search of a dictionary let me explain the first one. It was exemplified in the so called impeachment inquiry the other day. Different sets of people looking at the same things and coming to radically different understandings of reality and what the reality means. It could be boiled down to the observation that if Obama, Biden, or Hilary did something it was good and if Trump does the same thing it is world shakingly bad. The second one is pretty easy to see. The third is the concept of the deep state best seen by Britain today. The people overwhelmingly want out of the European Union and have voted to do so but are still there because EU Bureaucrats and liberal bureaucrats in Britain don’t care what the people want. The last two are self explanatory as well.
I would throw in another constituent element of liberalism and that is the disappearance of mercy and the need to replace it with a modified understanding of “justice”. Unlike Luther who relied upon God’s word to define reality, liberalism gives itself the authority to define morality. Given the propensity of Luther to forcefully uphold the Glory of God especially as found in the redemption of sinful mankind, I have a hard time seeing his reliance upon mercy as having anything to do with liberalism. It is still an interesting conversation.