Epiphany 2011, Volume XX, Number 1Table of Contents
(A feature article from the journal: Does Luther Have a Future in Germany? by Jobst Schöne)
If you give this question some thought, you will realize how difficult it is to give a reliable answer. We live in a constantly changing world. Beyond that, only a real prophet could make an accurate prognosis of Luther’s future in Germany — and I am no prophet. Under these circumstances I can only attempt to analyze the situation in which we find ourselves and draw some conclusions. In the end I will leave the prognosis more or less to you, and you may determine for yourself what to make of my presentation.
At any rate it will look more like a six-month weather forecast (that is, never accurate) than a solid statement. Right now nobody knows what will happen in the coming years and decades and how our churches will cope with and respond to the challenges before them. Before we go into any details concerning the situation in Germany, we should clarify what sort of “Luther” we have in mind and are discussing.
What “Luther” Do We Have in Mind?
Since the time of the Reformation there has been considerable change in the picture that people hold of Luther, the conception of what Lutheranism is all about, and the expectations of what to gain from the Reformation. In every age the Zeitgeist (a loanword in English, denoting the thought and feeling specific to a certain generation or period) has deeply influenced how Luther was accepted and adopted and how people wanted to see him. People always like to project their own ideas on a certain figure in history. Luther is one example. People wish him and his heritage to be the way they want. Rarely has there been a completely objective and impartial acceptance of Luther and his legacy. This fact is well-documented and demonstrated in the exhibition found today in the Luther House in Wittenberg, the former Augustinian monastery in which Luther lived for many years. Simply compare the pictures, portraits, and monuments of Luther from various periods, and you will notice that many of them portray not only Luther, but also the period when the display was constructed along with its feelings and conceptions of Luther. In some instances this is reflected in a quite revealing manner.
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