Sunday, October 17, 2004

Luther's Legacy

Rex Saxi swiped the thunder of this post with a comment and post on his own blog in response to "A Matter of Faith" by being the first to mention what I thought was not an obvious point about President Bush's evangelical faith. So, rather than rehash Rex's sally on this idea, I'll go slightly deeper with some background:

The Protestant Reformation, triggered by Martin Luther, had at its root an idea of Luther's that has seeped into many, which is not to say all, Protestant sects descending from that pivotal moment in history. Luther believed that humans were so irredeemably (and I use that word in its exact religious sense) vile that no possible action within the scope of a mortal's capabilities could overcome the heavy stain of Original Sin, and a hellbent destiny. From this premise, Luther reasoned that the only way anyone could achieve salvation was through the infinite mercy of God. Following this chain of thought, one is led, I think inevitably, as Luther was led, to the conclusion that "good works", i.e., actions meant to help one's fellows without expectation of compensation, are totally irrelevant to one's status in the hereafter.

Faith, Luther opined, is sufficient to achieve salvation. As Rex points out, Catholicism has a much more complex view of the relationship between faith and works, one that urges believers to act in the world as Jesus would have them act, based upon the behavioral recommendations found in the Gospels, and which led to the liberation theology movement in Central America during the 1980s.

Rex comments that one may examine the current Presidential contest through this lens as a conflict between Catholic and Protestant theology. I find the connection from Martin Luther to President Bush illuminating, given the current administration's manifest disregard for the physical wellbeing of the less fortunate among us, and the reported criterion determining if one receives government funding for one's faith-based initiative: whether one inquires of the poor if they have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

Because, if you're an evangelical Protestant, that's all that matters.


Blogger Maines said...

And yet the voice of God is telling George W. different things about the Iraq war than it is telling alpha-evangelist Pat Robertson. Bloody mess or no casualties . . . guess it doesn't really matter which if all that matters is that you're on the right (or should I say Right) side in the jihad, er, I mean Crusade.

6:46 PM  

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