Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World–Movie Review

I borrowed this film from our local library and watched it last night with my husband and some friends. I may be going a little off topic for the month with this review, but if you know anything about Martin Luther, you’re aware that he was well acquainted with the concept of repentance!  He spent so much time confessing that he was told to go away and come back when he had something worthwhile to report!  Released in 2017, this  movie depicts the major events in Luther’s life, interspersed with comments by theologians and historians.  Every word spoken by Luther was taken verbatim from his writings.  It was well done and gave a good, basic chronological account of the history of the Protestant Reformation.  Even if you’re well versed in this history, there were any number of interesting facts you may not know.  For example:

  • Luther wrote about 25% of the materials printed during his life
  • He was not paid for any of his writing
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s name was originally Michael King.  His father changed both of their names to Martin Luther out of admiration for the great reformer
  • Luther stated that his reason for marrying his wife Katie, was to please his father and spite the pope

Lutherans and history buffs will enjoy this PBS production, and I would certainly recommend it for confirmands.  I give it five stars!

Have any readers seen this film?  If so, I’d welcome some other comments.

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No Limits Attached

In a previous post, I wrote about the talk by Pastor Lynn Downing our Fanning the Flame team listened to together.  In that talk, Pastor Downing stated that true repentance means allowing God to change us in accordance with His will –NO LIMITS ATTACHED.  That reminded me of a quote by Henri Nouwen, who was a Catholic priest, professor and author of many book on spirituality.  Here’s Henri’s confession about that:

“I love Jesus, but want to hold on to my own friends even when they do not lead me closer to Jesus.  I love Jesus, but want to hold onto my own independence even when it brings me no real freedom.  I love Jesus, but do not want to lose the respect of my professional colleagues even when their respect does not make me grow spiritually.  I love Jesus, but do not want to give up my writing, travel, and speaking plans even when they are often more to my glory than God’s.”

I suspect we all have a list like this;  I know I do.  I love Jesus, but don’t want to give so much of my income to the needy that I can’t buy what I want, go out to dinner or take vacations. I love Jesus, but I don’t want to give up all or even part of my secular reading and tv shows in order to spend more time in prayer and study.  I love Jesus, but I still like to impress others with my accomplishments — and so on.  My point?  I’m still pretty far from that “no limits attached” ideal of repentance.  I guess this is what Luther meant in his first thesis — living a life of repentance is a life-long project.

In later life, Henri Nouwen did grow closer to NO LIMITS ATTACHED.  He went to work at a facility for the disabled, became a chaplain and caregiver, and always took one of the residents with him on speaking engagements.  He repented of his pride and neediness and He did allow God to change him. With God’s help you and I can do the same.

How the Reformation Changed the Environment

“The Reformation inspired a mood of anti-authoritarianism, which led to backlash against the feudal system and, by extension, to the democratic movement around the world. In the centuries following the Reformation, movements like women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery traced their roots back to Reformation-era principles.”

—Reference.com

I wonder what our world environment would be like today if Martin Luther had not been inspired by God to take a stand? He influenced his environment, rather than allowing the environment influence him.  Any thoughts, readers?

Luther on Leadership edited by David D. Cook—Book Review

This book was published in 2017 amid a plethora of Luther books due to 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  Unlike many books that focus on Luther’s legacy, life and theology, this one takes a different approach:  what can we learn from Martin Luther’s leadership style?

Nobody can deny that great change came as a result of Luther’s convictions and his life.  Here is a quote from the book:

The legacy of any leader can be measured by the positive change he cements
in his own organization, nation, or culture. While many leaders
across the millennia have created change in their society, few have caused such
broad-based change as Martin Luther. Someone surveying Europe in 1600
would have found a cultural milieu that was markedly different than what
was present just a hundred years before, in 1500. For a society that had not
changed markedly in a thousand years, the seismic shift that Luther brought
in the span of a few decades was remarkable. From the church, to government,
law, education, and economics, the hue of society was drastically different because
of the leadership of Martin Luther and his fellow Reformers.

What was it that made Luther such an effective leader?  This is the question the book sets out to answer.

The first section does review Luther’s life and legacy.  For the Lutherans among our readers, this may be a review of facts they already know.  The second deals with different modern models of leadership, comparing Luther to these models.  Each section is written by a different author.  Topics covered include:

  • Luther as a change agent
  • Luther as an adaptive leader
  • Luther as a transformational leader
  • Luther as a pastoral leader
  • Luther as a servant leader

I found this book interesting and readable.  It is well written, clear and while referring to many academic models of leadership does not bog down in academic terms that lose the average lay person.  I came away with a better sense of Luther as a leader we can learn from today.  While his circumstances and personality were unique, all church leaders can learn from his dedication to Biblical truth as well as his ability to communicate his vision to followers and energize them for God’s work.

Verdict:  I was given a pdf copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a blog review.  I give it five stars.  Ask your Pastor to add it to the church library!  For ordering information follow the link below:

https://wipfandstock.com/luther-on-leadership.html

 

God’s Not Dead & God’s Not Dead 2 –Movie Review

Martin Luther would have empathized with these film depictions of Christians who  found themselves in situations that required them to defend their faith against great odds.  You might say they became leaders unintentionally, as did Luther himself.  Facing the Diet of Worms in 1521 he said,

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other.  My conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.  God help me.”

Both films feature a main character who risks virtually everything to defend his or her Christian beliefs.  Both are vindicated and triumph over systems that seek to ridicule and belittle them. Both had very good presentations of the logical, scientific and historical reasons to accept Christianity (the big word for this is apologetics.)  I found them inspiring and entertaining. (Of course, I know I am years behind in my movie-viewing and probably most readers have already seen the films — if you haven’t, you can now easily get them from the local library).

I do have a few criticisms:  most of the characters were almost cartoonishly one dimensional — the Christians are obviously good, the atheists bad, and not much room in between for the doubting or seeking.  Conversions and answers to prayer come quickly….but this is a movie, right?  Things have to move rapidly (after all we only have 120 minutes) and I can’t expect the character development I might find in a good novel.  So I can let that go.

More seriously, the discussion of free will in the first film, and the implication in the second that we must “ask Jesus into our heart” conflict with Lutheran theology.  God choses us, we do not chose Him, and we do not have free will over our salvation (although we do in other areas.)

The Newsboys are not my favorite Christian musical group, but I’ll include the song for those who enjoy them:

Trusting Your Leader

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"I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my guide." - Martin Luther

Martin Luther on Tribulation

Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.

Martin Luther

I’m going off theme here, because I found this quote and I really like it.  These days we might be inclined to substitute “stress” for tribulation.  How do you behave under stress?  If you become angry or impatient, doesn’t that mean the person you’re really angry with is God?  Doesn’t it show a lack of obedience and submission to His will? Isn’t it sin?  Our sin, not somebody else’s?

My problem with stress is different.  I’m likely to worry, fret and sometimes become so overwhelmed I have trouble making a decision or moving forward at all.  This is sin also, just a different kind.  It’s boils down to lack of trust in God’s goodness.

Maybe you’re reaction is different from either of these.  You may have a different sinful stress behavior, or you may be mature enough to let go and let God in times of suffering.  For most of us, it’s something with which we have trouble, something we need to work on. We will experience trouble and tribulation.  The Bible tells us that is certain. We can grow through these times, or we can keep repeating the behaviors that get us nowhere.  Behavior that hurts others and hurts us.  Luther’s right.  Our reactions are our own and we need to take responsibility for them, and learn to do better.  They reveal where we are spiritually.  Next time you’re stressed, take a look in the mirror.  Do you like what you see?