The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The theology of the cross for our day

The 'difference' of Luther: Of the Reformers, only he does justice to the ambivalence of life

As a non-Lutheran for whom Martin Luther has been, since I first encountered him a half-century ago, the most interesting historically prominent Christian of them all, I've gradually come to the conclusion that — of all the major voices of the Protestant Reformation — Luther's is the least familiar. That seems obvious enough where Anglo-Saxon Protestants are concerned.

But sometimes I have the impression Luther remains something of a stranger even among the churches that call themselves by his name. Perhaps, like many renowned figures of history, Luther's fame has obscured his reality.

We English-speaking Protestants of WASPish origin usually think we know Luther. After all, he did launch the Reformation with his famous Halloween prank there in Wittenberg nearly five centuries ago. But we tend, most of us, to lump Luther together with all the other heroes of our religious past — Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin and John Knox and the English reformers right down to John Wesley. And the truth is, he's significantly different from all of them.

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February issue


Embracing diversity