Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A World Ablaze :: Craig Harline

A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation by Craig Harline on Amazon

Craig Harline Martin Luther book coverCraig Harline teaches history at Brigham Young University; If I had the opportunity, I'd register for every single one of his classes! If he speaks the way he writes...

There has been a deluge of Luther/Reformation-related books over the past year; even if you belong to the Flat Earth Society, you likely realize church and world very recently celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the event that kick-started the Protestant Reformation and put Wittenberg on the map. A World Ablaze – ablaze in the freedom and fire of the Spirit of Pentecost – chronicles some of magisterial reformer Martin Luther's academic history, his years as a professed religious friar and priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and the early years of the Wittenberg Reform, but not quite as concisely wrapped up as that brief description conveys.

During the months leading up to 31 October 2017, my church judicatory {oversight and accountability structure} sponsored a series of six Saturday-long Reformation Road Trip events. I attended five of them, and learned a lot about Luther's personality and assumptions, along with some of his rationale behind reforming worship and sacramental practices. Particularly as he details Luther's relationships with Frederick and Charles, Craig Harline fills in more of the blanks in my understanding.

I'd had some awareness of Brother / Doctor / Pastor Martin's political involvement, but I'd chalked it up to the fact if you stay in castles you need to stay friends with the people who own the castles. The idea of "The Presentation of The Augsburg Confession" to whom....? always seemed highly irregular to me in light of scripture, but Luther was more a late medieval guy than an early Renaissance one, so he depended upon and became involved with royals and government types in ways a late medieval worldview implies, and thus developed his doctrine of separate Spiritual and Temporal Kingdoms. It's far more nuanced than that, yet the concept isn't biblical. Would I want a theocracy like John Calvin's Geneva or colonial New England's? Not that, either. Not. Scriptural. In his Small Catechism explanation to the Lord's Prayer, Pastor Martin himself lists "good government" as part of the daily bread we need and pray for. In any case, my confidence in the {almost realized but not quite yet} eschatology of the Reign {Kingdom} of Heaven on earth is far more robustly Reformed than it is Lutheran.

{page 273} "He turned a very old 60 in 1543, and even began to dislike Wittenberg." Our Reformation Roadtrip presenter also mentioned Luther's very "premature aging"—despite 60 way back then being much older than even 70 years old is now in 2017. He told us Luther didn't travel much, probably a factor in his attitude being more insular than most educated people of his time. Lack of exposure to different styles of being and living may have contributed to his ultra-embarrassing diatribes again Jews and Judaism. Enough to get him banned from today's twitter? Probably. The late Timothy Lull referred to Luther's "polemical overkill."

Beyond the history that's never bare, I've taken away more than what's on the surface of A World Ablaze. I believe Martin Luther was Holy Ghosted Roasted, as were countless others who reformed / revitalized / restored the church. Like Luther, every one of the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led renewers of the church had a share of human frailties and less than admirable traits. Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, Ulrich Zwingli, Bros Charles and John along with Mom Susanna Wesley. In the New World? Awakenings through the agency of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards; Restoration movements from Barton Stone, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Joseph Smith. Back across the Atlantic, renewal or aggiornamento in the Roman branch of the church via John XXIII—even protestants commemorate and celebrate him as a Renewer of the Church; his liturgical reforms still continue to ripple through mainline protestantism! I'm taking away and claiming the validity of doctrinally and liturgically diverse expressions of the church, partly acknowledging Luther and cohorts' insisting we find the church and "it is enough" {satis est in the Latin version of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession} for the unity of the church that the gospel be preached and the sacraments rightly administered. Everything else is indifferent or adiaphora, a term famously ascribed to Lutherans but also used elsewhere.

A World Ablaze opens and concludes with Brother Martin in his Knight George persona making a quick incognito visit to Wittenberg from Wartburg Castle—nice way to capture reader interest. The back includes a useful collection of Sources and Further Reading. I plan to keep this book in my permanent collection and expect to read it again, though I may loan it to my church library before I do.

My Amazon Review: Wittenberg, Worms, Wartburg – and Martin Luther

1 comment:

  1. It is always refrshing to visit a class conducted by your favorite author. I have yet to reat any of his work, but I am sure now I will.


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