Thursday, February 25, 2010

Martin Luther on the Orthodox

"A common opposition to what they regarded as papal pretensions led the Protestant Reformers to make use of Eastern Christianity for propaganda and polemics. At the Leipzig debate in 1519, Martin Luther, pressed to defend his view that the authority of the pope was not normative for Christian doctrine and life, cited the example of 'the Greek Christians during the past thousand years ... who had not been under the authority of the Roman Pontiff.' The following year he declared that 'Muscovites, White Russians, Greeks, Bohemians, and many other great lands in the world ... believe as we do, baptize as we do, preach as we do, live as we do.'" - Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700)


  1. If only he were right. (I'm trying to imagine a history of Lutheran triple-immersion baptism, non-Augustinian predestination, asceticism...)

  2. I suppose if Luther had been closer to Russia in terms of location, he may have gone Orthodox. It's debatable, though, just how much any knew of eastern Christendom. The Turks had enslaved 2/3 of Eastern Christian peoples (not totally dissimilar from US foreign policy today) and it was difficult anyway to communicate over long distances.

    Ironically, consider today: with the ease of internet communication, some people still think Orthodoxy = Rome with cool beards!

  3. If only there had been more interaction between the East and the Reformers. They were in different empires and dealt in different languages, so there was little discussion. If there had been, I imagine things would have been very different... and I am a Protestant.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post.

    It confirms something I have wondering for some time. Nothing in my research revealed that Martin Luther had a clue eastern Christianity existed. It is a shame there was no open dialog at the time.

  5. Justin,

    You might be interested in Augsburg and Constantinople. It's a shame the dialog didn't start until 1574, certainly, though I don't know what an earlier start might have done to change the outcome.

  6. あじ(ah-ji?)
    Thank you very much. Yes, I do find that interesting. This is the first I have learned about the dialog. I especially like the OP comparison between the letters and modern day blog commentary - so true. Thanks again!


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