The Luther Legacy

Derek Wilson looks at the great religious reformer and asks why his life and work have seemed so ­significant to so many diverse people for almost 500 years.

Over the centuries Luther (1483-1546) has been variously identified as an advocate of absolute monarchy, democracy, individual freedom, intellectual repression, nationalism, internationalism, spirituality and secularism. The fact that so many later ‘movers and shakers’ have claimed the monk of Wittenberg as a progenitor of their own convictions is testimony to the stature of the man. Indeed, it would be difficult to identify any other individual who, without wielding political power or leading armies, more decisively changed the course of history. Even our supposedly post-Christian age cannot write him out of the record. Yet, we have to resist the temptation to recreate him in our own image. He was a religious figure; his battles were fought over theological issues that may seem to us obscure but whose implications touched every area of life, individual and corporate. 

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