Good Government

What Luther Can Teach Us Today

May 22, 2009

Brandon Dutcher

Monday will mark the 488th anniversary of The Edict of Worms, the famous decree issued against Martin Luther. But what can Luther teach us today?

According to OCPA distinguished fellow J. Rufus Fears, we as Americans can learn a lot from Luther. Essentially, the Reformation was a debate over freedom. Luther's 95 theses amounted to a revolution against the established authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Although not initially political in nature, Luther's ideological reform movement was indeed a catalyst for the emergence of nationalism within the Holy Roman Empire. "Once men and women began to question the authority of the church," Dr. Fears says, "they began to question other aspects of authority."

Luther's battle for Christian liberty was an example to men and women of the medieval world. Although his Reformation radically reshaped medieval society, Luther himself was a beacon for conservative thought. He stressed individual subordination to the secular authority, but only when that authority acted justly. Almost five hundred years after the fact, there are still lessons to be learned from this Augustinian monk. Luther's revolutionary movement against the corruption of the Catholic Church and in defense of individual liberty is similar in many ways to the founding of our own nation. Luther's 95 theses must have had a similar effect on the Pope as did the Declaration of Independence on King George III.

Dr. Fears' course on "The History of Freedom" -- including his lecture entitled "Luther and the Protestant Reformation" -- is available here.