Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Protestants Need to Understand Catholics + Luther {move review}

via Pixabay

The Reformation is just around the corner, you guys. The 500th. And I've got a book I want to finish up by the official anniversary.

*hyperventilating* read all the things

In our Bible Study Hour after church, our pastor is teaching on the Reformation to mark the 500th anniversary. It's thoughtful, and I connect with the historical focus, as well as one of his main thrusts: we cannot criticise Catholicism fairly until we seek to understand their viewpoint and then evaluate it from a Biblical perspective. Cold-hearted academic evaluation is not the way to disagree with someone. You must understand the why behind what they believe, and then you must line it up with Scripture. In Luther's time, part of the church was corrupt, and many Catholics saw that and longed for a pure church. Some of the things we would disagree with, while extra-biblical, stem from a deep desire on Catholics' part to pursue holiness. While sympathy with that desire doesn't cause us to embrace extra-Biblical doctrine, we should sympathize with the heart for holiness while applying God's standard of Scripture.

Our pastor went on to say that in Catholicism, there's a range of people. On the one hand, there can be some good Catholics and good Protestants. On the other hand, there can be some bad Catholics and bad Protestants. It all boils down to something he talked about recently: the difference between error and heresy. Heresy, he said, is something that teaches a false Gospel other than salvation through faith alone and Christ's righteousness alone. Error may be a non-salvific biblical issue (baptism, the end times) which has a correct answer, but which genuine believers differ on. Many people who are sincere Christians have things they believe that are error, whether Catholic or Protestant. It is the heretical beliefs, no matter your denomination, that will send you to hell.

Our pastor is clear-cut and biblical. He's not advocating tolerance of sin or error, even on points like baptism and end times. But I appreciate that as he approaches history, he acknowledges how complex it (and the people inside it) are.

He asked us to watch the 2003 Luther movie, and we're going to discuss it together. So last Sunday night, our family watched it together, and I thought I'd report the findings on the blog. Luther offers a great overview of the high points of the reformer's fight against the church, as well as giving modern cinematography and colorization to the portrayal of Luther's life. Here's what I loved most:

  • Luther's fights with the devil were moving struggles against darkness. Luther struggled with depression to a severe extent throughout his life, and while I wished the film had included it a little more after the later revolts, I appreciated the two instances they did show. His agony of resistance was convincingly portrayed. 
  • When I looked up the Parent Guide on IMDB and saw instances of hanging, I was a little concerned, and when a boy's parents first find him dead as a suicide victim, it is a sad and uncomfortable scene. But what happens after, as the boy is refused burial in the church grounds and Luther revolts in grief and anger against the refusal, showed a moving compassion that I thought was well worth including. Not only did it show how the rules of the church at the time didn't always minister to people's real needs, but it also showed an outcast woman watching Luther's compassionate burial of the boy, and you can see the wheels turning in her head as she takes in this act of mercy.
  • One of the most moving characters in the movie was the outcast mother with the little, crippled girl. The mother probably had the child out of wedlock, but her character shows such a sweet and simple love for her daughter as she buys the indulgence from Tetzel. Luther's anger over how she's taken advantage of and kindness towards her brings warmth to the film. She has an endearing, simple-hearted hunger for truth as she listens to Luther.

This movie is a great way to introduce people to this lionhearted spiritual soldier.

Parent Guide
Sex: Luther sees prostitutes soliciting in Rome (non-graphic).
Language: While there are a couple of instances of swearing I would mute, two of the scenes are actually moving struggles where Luther is cursing the devil in frantic spiritual warfare with fear, only calming down when he turns his attention instead to Christ.
Violence: A boy commits suicide by hanging (semi-graphic) and the church refuses to bury him. Tetzel holds his hand over a torch and shows his burned hand to the crowd. Close-up shot of a man in the fire being burned to death (brief). Far-away shot of men hanging from ropes. Shots of bloody bodies in the streets and the church.


  1. I'd like to say my family's celebrating Reformation Day by having supper and theological debates with Catholics, but our high-church Anglican conductor gave the orchestra tomorrow off of rehearsal for Reformation Day (mentioning "Oh, and that other thing people do" as an afterthought), which delighted those of us in it who are Protestants, and made an occasion for much ribbing of the somewhat less-delighted Catholics.

    On a more serious note, though, your pastor was right on about how we need to understand Catholics. In many ways it's easier when the Catholic says you're going to Hell, as a heretic --- when the Catholics believe some Protestants can be saved, though, it gets harder: you have to go through an extra step in the debate to emphasize differences which, to a 16th-century Catholic, would have been assumed.

  2. I agree, Schuyler! I think listening and understanding are important, both for dialogue with Catholics on our doctrinal differences and for a better understanding of our own beliefs. I find that taking the time to study Catholicism helps me identify areas in which my own beliefs are wrong, either by showing me the consequences of straying from Scripture or by showing me the historical Protestant pendulum swing away from Catholicism that, in places, has led us to abandon things that are actually biblical.
    Thank you for this article!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...