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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 April 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 APRIL 2018 17 FEATURE and wholesale destruction. Metaxas writes: “When Müntzer was in Zwickau, his screw had become sufficiently loose that his sermons were often downright disturbing.” Müntzer saw Luther as too close to those in authority. His mob of violent peasants committed atrocities across the German landscape. "Luther was against Müntzer and his call for the destruction of churches, lords, and princes," says Metaxas. George Wilberforce the 18th century Evangelist English politician behind the abolition of slavery was led by "his profound of his Christian convictions" but loathed the bloodletting of the French Revolution according to Metaxas. "Wilberforce asked, 'For how The question that became evident to Luther was 'does one need a priest to mediate between God and themselves?' This was heresy to a Catholic Church that insisted that only the Pope and his priests could interpret God's word and the Bible. Metaxas, in our polite tit-for-tat over Aristotle, points to communism as a system that is an outcome of "extreme rationalism" that "created an ideology that wrought the deaths of millions over the last century.” "An ideology that made all guilty even those once leaders of what began as a social justice vision could [get] excommunicated from academia and media and transported tons to the Gulag," he adds. In the book, Luther frees a group of nuns and ends up marrying one of them. He melds the material and 'spiritual' in to create possibly the first healthy view of sex since pre-Christian times. "True Christian and Judaic thinking is that the body is good and our bodies will be good, our bodies will be redeemed," says Metaxas. "The Catholic Church, the theocratic state, is about abstaining, it's about control of the body, sex, and life, and Luther was all human. "The Orthodox do get that right," he says, "priests can marry, the idea that sexuality is at odds of faith is wrong." I ask if it is difficult to have agreement on morality, virtue, and reason between theists and atheists. "No, when both agree on the outcome of an ethical society," he states. "A society where women and men are equal, where the flesh and the notion of spirit or mind are not a duality, a society where a person's skin pigment, [and] faith do not hinder their access to the economy, education and freedom, and most profoundly on the righteousness of free will above all else, they were Luther's aims," Metaxas says. It is difficult in the West to understand how theocratic rule worked once, or works now in some non-Western nations. In Catholic Europe of the 1500s, a non-mediated expression of free will could see one burned on a post. Not that Luther's followers did not have authoritarian attributes; Thomas Müntzer, a pro-Luther Christian and mystic, sought bloody revolution, he led the burning of Catholic churches, murder of lords, can we endure slavery as real Christians?'" Metaxas says. "He led the Abolitionists yet was unconvinced by the bloodletting in the French Revolution," he says. This idea that we are “all equal in the eyes of God, and we are held to the same standard" was the most radical idea borne by Luther. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World is an important addition to anyone's library. It is also impressive in its detail of life in medieval Europe: the travel on foot over miles, beer and food, gender roles, sexual mores, new German progressive barons, and divisions of class and faith. One of the most notable chapters is when Luther visits Rome as a Catholic priest and witnesses a sort of Catholic Las Vegas for Christian tourists. Metaxas even details the intense effect haemorrhoids and constipation had on Luther when he faced the Catholic inquisition in the 1521 Edict of Worms. The book is not a hagiography. Metaxas does highlight the contradictions in Luther, especially a small number of anti-Semitic texts later in his life which, we are told, he regretted. The apotheosis of Luther is most evident in 20th century works of Martin Luther King Jr and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, a priest and antiNazi dissident, served as a double agent helping Jews escape the Nazis and became a part of a plot to overthrow, and assassinate Hitler. I end our discussion with Metaxas going back to the desire for secularism; do we need God to achieve an open and equitable society? I realised in the end that you never win against someone with faith. Luther did not impose faith, which is great for atheists like me. He sort of developed a new contract between God and citizen, which fostered a great secular and ushered in the modern world.
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