Appeared in Fall 1996, Vol. XXII, No. 3
Four hundred fifty years ago one of the most important men in Western history died. However, his ideas, his convictions, his words had much less effect on our culture and civilization than did their evolution, especially under the impact of the First Enlightenment 350 years later.
G. P. Gooch was very right when he wrote that “the true nature of the Reformation is not found in its intention, but in its results,”1 and that “not only is the Reformer not the doctrine, but the doctrine itself is found to contain much that its author never could or never cared to find in it.”2 Hence in order to judge Luther nothing could be more erroneous than to apply to him the tendency to project the present character of the Reformation faiths on the Reformers. Just imagine how Luther or Calvin would react to the World Council of Churches, the late Norman Vincent Peale, or the “social gospel” advocates of Union Theological Seminary.
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