What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Martin Luther

Martin Luther 1483 - 1546
One of the delightful coincidences of history is that the man who sought to reform our nation and bring it back to the truth of its founding principles ("that all men are created equal") was named after the great reformer, Martin Luther, who sought to bring Christianity back to the truths of its founding principles as recorded in scripture. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Martin Luther were great men of faith and courage, who faced uphill battles all their lives and persevered because of the strength of their convictions.

In 1516  a Dominican Friar named Johann Tetzel was sent to Germany by the Roman Catholic Church to sell "indulgences" in order to raise money to build St. Peter's Basilica. It was church teaching at the time that indulgences were an important act of "good works" which could assure one's salvation. Martin Luther was a German monk, a catholic priest and a professor of the Bible. He objected to the selling of indulgences on two major grounds. One he believed that Rome had enough money to build and shouldn't be twisting the arms of poor commoners to raise the money. But his strongest objection was the idea that our good works could assure us of salvation.

Luther taught that salvation is by grace through faith.  - sola gratia, sola fide.

Luther essentially started the Protestant Reformation when he wrote of his objections to indulgences and other church practices in his "Ninety-Five Theses." Legend has it that he posted the document on the doors of the Whittenberg Chapel on Oct. 31, 1517. With the advent of the printing press Luther's words were soon published and read widely throughout Europe (the newly invented printing press played a major role in the Reformation!).

A few things to remember about Luther:

1. He believed that salvation is God's work, not ours. It's based on the free gift of God's grace. We make this gift our own through faith in Christ. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24).

2. He translated the mass and the Bible from Latin into German, so that people could understand what they were reading and saying.

3. He urged folks to read and study the Bible for themselves.

4. He wrote new hymns, often using the contemporary styles of his day.

5. He believed in the "Priesthood of All Believers," that we're all to do God's work, not just clergy.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for such a man of faith and courage. Give me that same strength of conviction and devotion to the your Good News. Amen.

Above: Luther's words at the Diet of Worms, when asked to recant.
Extra Credit:

Luther's passion and skill with words made him immanently quotable. Here's a sampling:

 Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

Pray, and let God worry.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.

The devil does not stay where music is.

War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity, it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.

I feel as if Jesus Christ died only yesterday.

We all carry about in our pockets His very nails.

The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.

They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?

To gather with God's people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.

If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there.

The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?

The fewer the words, the better the prayer.

The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes.

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