Celebrating Martin Luther and lessons for today’s Christian Political Economy

Whatever your brand of protestant faith, I think that in this coming month of October–in a very important sense–we are all Lutherans: here we stand.  The monk from Wittenberg was the spark that roared to an unquenchable fire, hitting the dry wood of people yearning for the true word of God.  As Michael Reeves says,

The Reformation was not principally a negative movement about moving away from Rome and its corruption; it was a positive movement, about moving toward the gospel.

Luther’s initial and fundamental shift from a works-based righteousness to a faith-based righteousness enabled God’s people to reclaim God’s truth.  For that, we are eternally grateful, as there can be no more significant human gift than Luther’s helping the church see the glory of God’s gift to us of salvation–a free gift that we receive by faith alone.  So in churches around the world, we are seeing an outpouring of teaching and celebration of 500 years since the “wild boar” nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg.

Yet as much as we celebrate Luther, we must with sad reflection acknowledge his sinful attitudes towards Jews.  Luther was particularly vitriolic in his older days after Jews did not receive the gospel sufficiently to his liking.  In his book, On the Jews and Their Lies, he called for, among other things, Jewish synagogues and schools to be razed, and Jews not allowed to own homes near Christians.  So should we be honoring Luther this month?  Or should we be condemning him?  Is it possible to do both?

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One of my own personal Christian heroes is Abraham Kuyper.  His classic quote I relish almost as much as scripture (since I believe scripture itself testifies to this truth):

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!

Kuyper was an energetic businessman, author, theologian, and politician, and his fundamental worldview is captured in the quote. His life was spent applying a Christian worldview to all aspects of life.  For Kuyper, as for your Bereans, there is no part of life that is separate from God’s authority.  Two years ago, when I went to Acton University, there were several sessions on Kuyper, and I eagerly attended all of them.  While I’ve read some of Kuyper’s works, I’m certainly no scholar, and looked forward to the sessions.  Dr. Vincent Bacote, an African-American, began his session with a frank acknowledgement that his love of Kuyper’s public theology was a bit of a crisis since Kuyper’s lofty spiritual ideals were jettisoned in his discussions of race.  So can we honor Kuyper?  Or should we condemn him?  Or is it possible to do both?

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I consider George Washington one of our greatest presidents, if not the greatest, because of his refusal to seek to become a king; something plausibly within his grasp.  Yet Washington used his powers to enrich himself, and was a slaveowner.  Do we praise Washington or condemn him?  Or do we do both?

Humans are complex, and our historical visions often fail to capture the universal complexity of the men and women we admire or despise.  Do we praise Pilate for initially trying to deliver Jesus from the schemes of the Pharisees, or do we condemn for the most unjust decision in human history?  Do we praise Martin Luther King for his heroic stand against injustice or condemn him for his infidelities? The list could almost certainly go on to as many people as ever lived, as we are all created in the image of God, and yet are fallen.   The left is no doubt correct that we fail to acknowledge the faults in our historical heroes, but then they create an even worse error by trying to destroy them.  What in my generation was called the “blame America first crowd,” has metastasized into a far worse “hate/loath America above all else” crowd.  And thought to have been completely marginalized, there is an unapologetic “white supremacist/nationalist/populist” movement standing up for their “own” group.  The fruits of identity politics are yielding a bitter taste indeed.

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There is a significant danger in failing to recognize this fundamental biblical truth that we are all worthy of dignity inherent in being created by God, and yet also under his wrath due to our rebellion against him–a wrath that can only be satisfied by a faith in Jesus Christ.  The danger is this:  we see the outward flaws in others–flaws that we do not have ourselves (or don’t think we do)–and we are tempted to think we are categorically different from them.  Consider the outrage against white supremacists in Charlotte.  Their beliefs can and should be condemned, but we must never think that somehow racism is a more monstrous sin, or that we are unlike them.*  Racism is just a species of a broader genus, and each of us has that genus of sin.  The broader genus is that in our brokenness, we often desire to find dignity in ourselves not by recognizing who we are (individuals created in the image of God), but rather by putting others down in an attempt to elevate ourselves.  Is that not the root issue of racism?  And do not all of us do this to some degree?  It begins in grade school and continues from there–there is an in-group and an out-group.  We have attitudes about others that are not biblical, and do not reflect their intrinsic worth as fellow image bearers.  Some of these feelings are more acceptable socially, some less acceptable, and those change over time.  Particularly odious versions of our feelings not only seek to elevate our own worth by putting down others, but seek to deny any of the common humanity we share.  The Nazi’s views of Jews particularly come to mind.  The Christian understands that what is different is only a matter of scale (the magnitude of sin’s manifestation), not of scope (the category of sin).

Realizing this, we should seek to find reasons to praise those things that are worthy of praise, and condemn those things worthy of condemnation.  If we were only able to praise perfection, there would be no one to honor but Christ.  Yet God calls us to honor others….and the standard for honoring others is not perfection.

* In fact, it is slippery slope that turns us into what we profess to hate, when we treat white supremacists (or name your favorite villain group) as almost sub-human, refusing to recognize that they too are created in the image of God.

81 thoughts on “Celebrating Martin Luther and lessons for today’s Christian Political Economy”

  1. Well put Dr. Haymond. Interestingly, Richard Neibuhr, in the classic book, Christ and Culture, ascribed this very observation, that all men, and the society they create, contain both virtuous and vicious elements. In my understanding of Neibuhr’s account, this is what led Luther to argue that believers who operated in certain vocations, such as public magistrate, did not need to be too concerned if their actions, such as condemning a man to death according to correct application of the social forms of law, led to non-utopian outcomes. Individuals cannot simply substitute their judgment for what they see as harmful social norms. After all, we built our norms, or our ancestors did, and since everyone experiences the noetic effects of sin, we have no expectation that our personal judgments are superior. This type of humility, which you demonstrate here in historical discussion that avoids making superheroes or supervillains out of men, is well-placed in the context of a discussion of Luther. Even if he failed his own test, its contribution is valuable to an appropriately self-critical perspective.

    1. I agree with you Stanley. I also think that in analyzing the “virtuous and vicious elements” of mankind we can see two things: Man’s capacity for sin and God’s amazing common grace. It is only by God’s common grace that unregenerate believers do not stoop as low as they could in their sin. It is by both God’s common grace and special grace through the revelation of the Holy Spirit that believers are able to live sacrificial lives for the good of others. If however, we found someone who lived a perfect sacrificial life without something to criticize, then we would not need Christ. The very reason we need Christ is that because even the best of us is fallen and even our heroes sometimes become villains.

  2. Dr. Haymond, this insight is quite thought-provoking because I have often struggled with how to honor men who seem to deserve condemnation. Although I never knew of Martin Luther’s distain for Jews, I have often asked the same question with another Martin Luther (i.e. Martin Luther King). He did so much for the civil rights movement but is known to have been caught up with several extra marital affairs. So do we condemn or honor?
    I really appreciated how you described the reason we are to honor them. “God calls us to honor others…and the standard for honoring is not perfection.”

    1. This is true, none of us are perfect and to think that we should think down on someone who did so much for the church because he had sin in his life is a shame. I liked your comparison to Martin Luther King because he was a terrible man in his personal life but he did so much for the black community that to hold condemnation on his is ridiculous.

  3. I believe the thing to remember in realities such as these is that all fall short of the glory of God and no matter who it is and how much good they have done, no one is perfect as Christ was. Every great human in history has dealt with sin besides Jesus and this is the reality we face. I agree with praising the things that deserve praise and condemning the things worthy of condemnation. It sounds so simple, yet can be difficult to separate the actions and the human beings that commit those actions.

  4. Very thought provoking. I believe that the standard for honoring is indeed not perfection, for if it was we could not honor anyone but Christ himself. Everyone sins and does wrong, however most people do some really good and Christ-honoring things as well. While we should not blindly praise someone’s every action and decision, be it a leader, athlete, or preacher, we should celebrate and honor someone’s achievements for the good, just as Christ would. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes whether we want to weigh one sin against another or not. It’s not our job to make a judgement on someone else, only to lift them up when they do achieve or perform an act that’s good and God-honoring. Thanks for the post, Dr. Haymond!

  5. Dr. Haymond,

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with the observation that if we only seek perfection from those we honor then the only one who would ever qualify is Jesus himself.

    I can think of one good Biblical example that might shed light on how we can view imperfect men and that is the example of David. The Bible does not pull punches about David’s sin, but yet stresses that this man was “a man after God’s own heart”. David was not perfect and his sin was terrible, but I feel safe in saying that if the world had more Davids in it, it would be a far better place.

    1. Anyone who would commit murder by proxy in order to commit adultery is not an example worthy of emulation. That is, if we are to value life.

      1. Nathan is not presenting the argument that David was “a man after God’s own heart”, the Bible itself is. His sin shows that no man is perfect and only Jesus is worthy to be praised as perfect. But David’s life is a model for Christians to live by. We can learn from mistakes that Biblical heroes made and be shown only Jesus is truly perfect. If we were to ask Nathan (the prophet) about David he would tell us of the sin against Uriah and perhaps others not recorded but also of David’s extraordinary life for the Lord.

      2. 1 Kings 15:5 has this to say about David:

        “because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite”

        So basically the Bible is telling us that David IS an example to follow EXCEPT in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. David can and should be looked up to as an example to follow “except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” and doing so does not diminish the value one puts on life.

  6. I think that the best current example of this dichotomy is President Trump, albeit the reverse of the aforementioned individuals. The Bereans disscussed him at length in their latest vlog. It is very clear that he makes several mistakes; however, there have been a few victories coming out of his administration. For example, he is being hard on terrorism, working to find compromise with the Democrats on a few issues, reducing burdensome regulation, etc. Despite all of this, many on both sides of the isle want to focus only on the negatives. While it seems clear at this time that he’ll never make the great accomplishments that any of these men made, we should still seek to honor the office of President and admit when he does do something correct.

      1. Wholeheartedly agree that we shouldn’t rely on Trump. But then again, we have few (if any) things on which to stake true trust and reliance other than God and His Word. The point is that we may honestly commend the commendable and condemn the condemnable. That sounds easy enough, but, as Dr. Haymond noted, it takes a great deal of honesty to separate ourselves from partisanship and give a fair evaluation of the good and bad. We do this already in our study of history and philosophy. Say we study Adam Smith. Division of labor? Good! Insight on human nature? Very good! Labor theory of value? Very bad… Do we throw Adam Smith out of all economic consideration because he totally messed up value? Of course not, he basically founded economics as a discipline. The same principle should be applied to others as well. We can debate the merits of a man’s actions, but can we honestly say that someone deserves total repudiation solely on account of their failings? I think not.

  7. I see your point, and on one level I agree with you; but there is a danger in equating Luther’s sin (in light of the fact that his views arguably ended up shaping the views of generations of Germans including Nazis?) with Washington’s with MLK, Jr.’s.

    On one level, they are not at all comparable. The matter of scale DOES matter.

    Anti-Semitism and slaveowning create/created far more suffering than martial infidelity. They are all sin, yes, and all are wrong. But when it comes to the impact on society, they are clearly not all comparable.

    1. Important to remember, while I agree with the scope of each sin being different and the punishment each is due being different which is discussed in Scripture, what James 2:10 says.

      1. Martin Luther and many other Christians had a problem with James. Indeed, much of James is problematic and arguably should have never been deemed by humans as being canonical.

        James argues for a works-based salvation (see verse 14). That principle contradicts the principle of God’s sovereignty.

      2. Had a feeling that you would try this argument on James 2:14. No dice. James does not argue for a works based salvation. All he is saying is that true saving faith will be evident through actions. Does a simple ‘profession of faith’ without a genuinely changed heart show true salvation? That is what this is asking not advocating works-based salvation. Nothing in James is problematic in regards to the rest of the Bible.

    2. I was not trying to equate or really even to compare any of these individuals; rather just trying to show there is a good and a bad to figures most of us would say are worthy of praise. Sorry I wasn’t clear.

  8. This article is something that addresses many of the problems in America right now, head on. People today are too quick to look at somebodies faults and completely discredit all of the positive aspects of that person. The thing that this article really helped me understand better was the sin problem behind these thoughts. Racism is one of the main problems that people are currently pointing to as the reason to discredit a person. Racism is a species of a genus sin that every person has committed. when racism is looked at as someone trying to build themselves up and tear someone else down, it is clear to see that we are all sinful and can’t tear someone else’s work down, just for a sin we all commit.

  9. Nathan D says “So basically the Bible is telling us that David IS an example to follow EXCEPT in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. David can and should be looked up to as an example to follow “except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” and doing so does not diminish the value one puts on life.”

    David had eight wives. David, as you say, is an example to follow (except for his murder by proxy and his adultery). So, therefore, a good Christian has multiple wives (in this case, eight)?!

    This is a direct contradiction of one man-one wife principle. I don’t see how it isn’t.

    1. Jeff, I don’t really care what you see or don’t see. I think we all know what you are trying to do here. Could be wrong, but my guess is not too many are going to buy your straw man. Most people are smart enough to know that I am talking about the example of character and was not saying “David did it, therefore it must be okay and all good Christians must do it”.

      1. Real mature there, Nathan.

        I caught you in a contradiction, and once again you attack ME instead of challenging the message.

        Did you or did you not say that David IS an example to follow EXCEPT in the matter of Uriah the Hittite? You did. Be a man and admit it. You were wrong.

        I say David is NOT a good example to follow. If you and I did what he did, we’d be in jail. Lock-up-and-throw-away-the-key jail.

      2. What contradiction did you catch him in exactly? Again the Bible says David is a good example to follow, Nathan is just quoting it. If you say David is not a good example you are contradicting the Bible.

      3. Daniel,

        He thinks that because I said “except in the matter of Uriah” then that means I think David was otherwise totally perfect and when I say he is an example to follow I am endorsing every other action he did. and since David had multiple wives, I must therefore be saying that polygamy is okay and that it is okay for Christians to have multiple wives.

        Since he knows from previous discussions on what I believe about God’s view on marriage, he can’t resist the chance to trap me in what he thinks is a contradiction, likely so he can come back and reference this in any future discussions on marriage.

        Jeff,

        You have caught nothing. I have not contradicted myself. You straw manned what I said, or really, you straw manned what Scripture said, since what you straw manned was me quoting Scripture, to create the contradiction and then attack me for it, and then you want to talk about who is more mature? Please.

        All this beside the point that you seem to be attempting to steering the conversation away from the whole point of this discussion, that being the question of do we praise, condemn, or do both? Your reaction to the example of David would clearly seem to indicate your preferred answer is to condemn with little or no praise. Is this a correct conclusion?

        I am holding, and will continue to hold, David up as an indicator that the Biblical position is to do both (my original point, which you took issue with, hence my conclusion above) since Scripture praises David for the good he did, and for his heart to follow God, but also condemned him for his sin.

        As for what would happen to us if we did what David did, that is not really relevant to the question of “praise, condemn, or both?”

      4. Jeff, just for clarification… upon reexamination, I can see why my choice of words might have been a bit misleading, though I stand by my claim that, rather than ask for clarification, which I would have given, you chose instead to take advantage of unintentional miswording to strawman.

        So, to clarify, the verse I quoted says that David did all that God commanded of him except in the matter of Uriah. Did God ever command David to take eight wives? No he did not. So the question of David’s wives is irrelevant to the verse and the point being made, which is that David is an example to follow because in everything (except Uriah) that God commanded, he did. Do you believe that Christians should follow the example of David and do all that God commands of us?

      5. Just so you do not misinterpret the above addendum as any type of admission that you were right and I was wrong…

        “Be a man and admit it. You were wrong”

        Nope. You do not get to twist my words, dictate to me what I intended to mean, and then demand I admit I was wrong.

        My only “error” was one of word choice, but even with that word choice, my meaning should have been apparent to anyone. If I owe an apology to anyone, it is NOT to you but to the others on this blog, and that apology is my regret that my word choice unintentionally gave you an opening to engage in caviling.

  10. There are many people that we view in a positive light, despite their shortcomings. Martin Luther and George Washington did great things for Christianity and America, respectively, but also treated certain groups of people with little or no respect. It is important to not put our faith into men.

  11. “Had a feeling that you would try this argument on James 2:14. No dice. James does not argue for a works based salvation. All he is saying is that true saving faith will be evident through actions. Does a simple ‘profession of faith’ without a genuinely changed heart show true salvation? That is what this is asking not advocating works-based salvation. Nothing in James is problematic in regards to the rest of the Bible.”

    The choice to confess one’s sins and to make a profession of faith BY DEFINITION are WORKS.

    Anyone who says that salvation is personal choice, that a person chooses to come to God and must make a profession of faith is (probably unknowingly) advocating works-based salvation. A good Calvinist would be happy to explain this further. A good Calvinist probably doesn’t have to get back to work right now, like I do! :-)

    1. You’re being very technical here. The point is that Christ earned our salvation and offered it to us freely. We just have to accept it. We do not gain salvation by works, meaning by ‘good deeds’ outweighing ‘bad deeds’. You know this. The technicality is just for you to bicker. It’s like a gift. One person buys (obtains) it, wraps it (or packages, or whatever), and presents it. The recipient has to take it but did nothing in contribution to earning it. Again you know this I’m sure, but are being technical with words for whatever reason. The overall point is that James does not contradict the rest of the Bible on salvation.

      1. If we have to accept it, and if salvation hinges on whether individuals choose to be saved or not, then salvation cannot be entirely a result of God’s grace.

        IOW, if we have to choose for or against God, then some of the credit for our salvation ultimately goes to us. In this context salvation would be the result of OUR good decision-making.

        Regarding your gift analogy, it is not a gift until you choose to receive it (one can turn down gifts, you know). Your receiving is indeed an act.

      2. Jeff, you are not even relating to the original point I made which was that James does not contradict the rest of the Bible on salvation. You had no rebuttal to my explanation other than nitpicking specific wording about what works means which suggests you have no rebuttal and have to divert to avoid the appearance of losing the argument like usual.

        “If we have to accept it, and if salvation hinges on whether individuals choose to be saved or not, then salvation cannot be entirely a result of God’s grace.”

        What you are saying is contrary to the Bible. Ephesians 2:8-9 is quoted below. The works you are talking about are different than the works Scripture is talking about. Scripture is saying good deeds cannot save us in outweighing bad deeds. Titus 3:5 is another verse. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. All you are doing is changing the conversation and nitpicking dialogue cause your argument on James could not stand on its merit so you had to dodge.

    2. “Anyone who says that salvation is personal choice, that a person chooses to come to God and must make a profession of faith is (probably unknowingly) advocating works-based salvation.”

      You clearly do not understand what is meant by works-based salvation. Works based salvation is the belief that salvation is obtained because of good things we do and that if the good outweighs the bad then one gets into heaven. Your categorization of accepting by faith that Jesus paid the price for our salvation as a work in the sense of salvation achieved by works is very peculiar indeed.

      1. I am familiar with the Calvinistic doctrine of salvation. I simply do not agree with it.

        Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

        While we might be taking an action by accepting it, that is not what the Bible means by works. Like Daniel said, you are nitpicking technicalities.

  12. I love the way this write up makes you really think. There are many individuals out there who have made big mistakes, and as a result, the rest of their life is forgotten. Joe Paterno is a great example. Although I by no means agree with the big blunder exposed at the end of his life, Joe Paterno did a lot of great things for the sport of College Football and still deserves recognition for them. Things such as the way he fought against racism when he first entered the league, and his loyalty to the school of Penn State are still admirable qualities.

  13. This article makes a lot of great points and uses a variety of examples. I appreciate where you said, “If we were only able to praise perfection, there would be no one to honor but Christ. Yet God calls us to honor others….and the standard for honoring others is not perfection.” We all have triumphs, and we all have failures. Being hateful towards groups simply because we don’t agree with them, is not honoring to each other or to God. Thank you for the insight this week!

  14. It was asked whether or not we should praise Luther or condemn him. Praise Washington or condemn him? Why can we not do both? No one is perfect. We have all sinned. Yet most of us still consider each other “good” people. In reality, telling a lie results in the same eternal punishment as owning a slave. Yet we consider lying a “better” action in comparison with slavery. We can praise Martin Luther for his work and revolution of the understanding of Christian theology while still condemning him for his anti-Semitic views. We can praise Washington for being a great political leader while condemning him for owning slaves. When you get down to it, it’s no different that praising someone for working diligently and hard on a project while condemning him for telling his wife a lie (please note that this is not intended to be a statement on the societal values placed on various wrongdoings and sins).

  15. I feel like Martin Luther did a significant thing that we should recognize, but I wouldn’t go as far as calling him a hero. He was bold for sure. I think we can honor what he did to get people to stop relying on priests and the Catholic church so much, but he is a person with great flaws just like everybody else and I think he should be viewed that way.

  16. Dr. Haymond,

    When it comes to deciding whether to praise someone, or condemn them, or acknowledge both their good and bad, what would your threshhold be in determining what scale or scope of sin, or badness, makes it so that it is impossible to do both and giving any praise would be wrong?

    1. Thorin
      That’s a good question. I suspect it would always be case-by-case. But a few thoughts could guide us. If someone is in a position of authority, we should still honor their behavior if possible, since we are called to honor those in authority. It was hard to find things to praise about Mr. Obama’s performance, and it will be hard to find things to praise about Mr. Trump, but they will be there. So when we see them, we should praise them. Second consideration is are those who have done very bad things truly repentant? Then its easy–praise all the good things going forward. So, think John Newton there. Third, ask what harm is the praise of the good going to do? For instance, if you see David Duke do or say something really good, I would not necessarily give public praise because of the misunderstandings and harm it might cause to others. But if I saw him privately I would praise him for a good deed or thought. We must never give up on anyone, to include a David Duke (or a Donald Trump or a Barack Obama)

  17. This article totally made me think of King David. A man of great power and accomplishment, yet also prone to huge failure. But above all else he was praised for being a man after God’s own heart.

    Hearing all of these big names is somewhat daunting and can make me feel small and insignificant. I tend to look down on the comparatively insignificant platform of influence I have compared to such men, and somehow reason to myself that I have less opportunity to do much good, but feel better saying “that’s ok because my sin will be less known and impactful” that is concerning others. What a load of trash.

    God is soveriegn and has me where He wants me. I was created in His image and through His spirit within me have precious opportunity to do great things for His name. And equally so I am fallen and prone to failure; the sin of which is no less severe to any degree than that of more well known men. All the same as David, I must own my idenetity in Christ and embrace my brokeness while seeking God with every ounce of my being.

  18. Wow, well done Dr. Haymond. I’ve always sorta felt this way, like how do we honor some of these people with the things they have done and not for others. Being from Cincinnati I’ve always felt this way about Pete Rose, yes the things he did were wrong, but he was undoubtably a great athlete. I like how you ended it, saying we should praise whats praisable and condemn whats condemnable.

  19. This was a very insightful post about a man that many regard to being “holy.” I had never heard of Martin Luther’s take on Jews, and it is somewhat disheartening. This is just a reminder that we are to put our faith in God and not in man, as man is infinitely sinful.

  20. This post is very thought provoking and I think that condemning people while honoring them at the same time is plausible. If I were in a position of leadership, I am sure people would find things to condemn me about because I am flawed just like everyone else. It is easy to say a sin is unthinkable when looking into another person’s life. For example, George Washington owning slaves would be unthinkable today but it was the norm at the time. I disagree with some of his choices but I don’t think that stops him from being admirable. Ultimately, Jesus is the only person we cannot find flaw in but that doesn’t mean we can’t look up to other humans.

  21. I think that it can be a very dangerous game deciding whether or not to praise or condemn a person. The legacy a person leaves behind will be valued differently by every individual. Some might praise Luther while others condemn him. Some might praise Donald Trump while others condemn him. The fact is, every person alive has done things that are worth praising and things that are worth condemning.

    Yes, we have to evaluate a person’s life as a whole to decide whether we should look up to them and respect them. We have to look at the big picture, not just one little segment in time where they messed up or did something right. However, each and every one of us will come to a different conclusion on some level as to how we should view a person. Thus, no one person’s opinion can be 100% right or wrong. Was David a person that we should emulate? Arguments have already begun over this question. Is one opinion right and another opinion wrong? Not at all!

    With that said, while I found this article to be extremely fascinating and well written, I couldn’t help but ask myself one question as I walked away: the question of “was this really necessary?”

  22. I think it is possible to accept certain pieces of information. It is okay for someone to agree with specific topics expressed by Luther, Kuyper, or Washington but also disagree with some of their other points. Ultimately, agreeing or disagreeing with certain points is based on what someone values to determine what they are going to accept… if they are living their life for God, they would agree or disagree with points that someone who is an unbeliever would agree or disagree with.

  23. We are all sinners. We all have various biases and pockets of our souls filled with contempt or distaste for a group or action or maybe even just a specific person. When these emotions are triggered, rather than lashing out and speaking from that position of hatred, we should respond with words filtered through Christ’s love for all sinners. We are indeed called to speak the truth, but berating someone for their beliefs (no matter how offensive) is not the truth in love as Paul reminds us to do. One should calm down and perhaps even count to ten before responding if there is a possibility of venting one’s spleen.

    We are called to be salt and light, not fire and brimstone.

  24. I appreciate this article for the reason that it doesn’t allow us to let any one of mankind’s finest offerings become our perfect hero and lord. Having these people with their great accomplishments allows us to respect them as leaders of this world and to learn from them what we can, but had they not had their flaws, we might find ourselves worshiping a false idol as opposed to our one true King, God. We all have our flaws, quite obviously, but those flaws leave room for grace in my life, and in the lives of those mentioned in the article. In regards to whether or not we should condemn them, does God condemn us for each and every one of our wrongs doings, or does He forgive us, as His wrath has been released on the cross?

  25. Nathan, see what I wrote at 11:18 am on September 25. I did NOT twist your words. I quoted you. By claiming that I twisted your own words when in fact I directly quoted you is being dishonest.

    1. I saw what your wrote when you wrote it. Your interpretation of my intended meaning was incorrect and I have acknowledged my wording was flawed, but stood by my statement that most people would still have understood my intended meaning. I believe you are intelligent enough to have realized it, but, just like with Daniel and the James stuff, you relish looking for technicalities to nitpick, and when I clarified my original intention, you doubled down on insisting I was contradicting myself when I was not intending to.

      You are the one being dishonest by not accepting that I subsequently clarified my position. My only guess as to why you will not accept this is because to accept it would negate your attempt to catch me in a contradiction.

      1. What you did do regardless of my wording was separate my comment from the verse I was discussing and in doing so, you took important context away from my own words. You even if my wording was flawed, you still DID twist my meaning.

    2. Jeff, it was clear to me what Nathan was trying to say. You are quibbling over the specific wording of what he said. His main message was clear.

  26. Just about every leader has its strengths and weaknesses. We see it today also that leaders have tremendous failures that make them bad leaders. There is no perfect leader than the Lord that we serve and follow. So to understand this, God has placed leadership above us in different levels of our lives. This could be from the classroom to the nation we live in. Yet, he commands us to submit to their authority. I believe we should support and praise the leadership decisions that go according to the promises and commandments of God. Praising and supporting in a public sense shows our values and commitment to God. When we disagree the leadership that is not pleasing to God, then we show that God and His commandments lead our lives, not earthly leadership.

  27. I was in the Moorehouse debate tournament when this was published. That is interestingly MLK Jr.’s college. I found that they revered him there, and of course were very strongly against anything resembling racism. MLK Jr. was a great man who accomplished a lot and was very popular.

    This raised one thought in my mind. Should we make a greater effort as Christians to lift up the everyday Christian hero? That elder that is always serving unrecognized in the church? That student that gives up their evenings and weekends for evangelism or worship team practice? The missionary in a hard place that gets little tangible results or recognition? I wonder if God would rather we made an explicit effort to promote those who aren’t already promoted by society.

  28. It’s important to remember that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We must also recognize that God sees all sin as equal. We are called to praise things that are worthy of praise and condemn things that are worthy to condemn. With this in mind we can’t hold people to the expectation of perfection. Instead, we can honor people for praiseworthy things.

  29. It’s funny, I know that everyone is human and is sinful, but as a child/teenager I always revered the characters of the Bible as well as the “Heroes of the Faith” as being amazing sinless people, but even now as I am taking Old Testament Survey I am learning that not even Joseph was completely righteous. This has not been a discouragement though because to me, that makes my view of God so much more awe inspiring that even when He was a human, and tempted by Satan himself, he never sinned. From this post I have learned that would should condemn evil and praise good, but do it in a way that is to build each other up. I really like what Andrew said that we should also not forget to praise the actions of the unsung heroes.

  30. I honor MLK for igniting the Reformation. I do little else though.
    I was once confronted, online, about my subscription to the Protestant movement and accused of endorsing ALL of MLK’s views. They then mentioned something he said or ascribed to that was distasteful. I merely replied that I don’t ascribe to everything he did, only what we have in common.
    I would have the same regard towards Washington, MLK Jr., etc.
    That’s also why I don’t ascribe to Trumpism. Like Ben Shapiro, I rejoice at his conservative progress, and groan at his mistakes.
    As the Bible says, do not make idols of anything.

  31. This article showed an interesting perspective to viewing great leaders. It showed the two sides of every person. we can look at all of the good things that that person accomplished or we can look at their failings. I think this goes back to not viewing sin as comprised of different levels. There is no sin that is the worst, all sins are equal. with that view, I think we accept that people are sinners but their sins don’t define them. Every great leader has their shortcomings or failings, but for the most part it’s not what they’re know for.

  32. Sir, I think you make a profound comment when you concluded that if we were only to praise perfection that we would find ourselves only giving praise to Jesus. It is a valid realization that we have to bring honor to others, and that we cannot just shed hate on those that do horrible acts. Yes, I do agree that we have to condemn the acts of those that purposefully and without intention hurt others. Their acts are extremely detrimental to society as a whole, but dare I say that to spread hate and messages that those sinful people are just as sinful as people as we are. After all, the Bible says that one who breaks just one part of the law is guilty as breaking the entire part of the law. Thus, we cannot let ourselves get caught up in hating on the groups, but instead trying to show them love and the right way.

  33. This article points out to us that both our heroes and our enemies are fallen people. The people that we place on a pedestal for our praise are just as fallen and broken as we are, and it is wrong to believe that they are perfect in any way. All men are broken, and have an inherent sin nature. Of all the comments made in this article, one of them challenges me. That we should condemn those things that are worthy of condemnation. Often times, when we decide to condemn anything, it is not the thing that we are condemning, but the person taking the action. While I believe that we should fight against wrongdoing, and take a stand against what we see as wrong and evil, we as Christians must be careful of what we “condemn”. Condemnation, in my opinion, as little weight as it may hold, is not the responsibility of humans. God is the only one who can justly serve out condemnation. God’s command to us is to love and to share His Name with all the nations. He doesn’t tell us to condemn, because in our brokenness, we are unable to correctly condemn.

  34. Everyone has a good and bad side. In when deciding to celebrate someone, one needs to decision if the celebrated person is worth celebrating based on their own character.

  35. I really enjoyed this article. I feel like a lot of the time, when we hear stories about people in the Bible or in history, it’s one extreme or the other: they were either nearly perfect and any sins we know about are overlooked (David, for example) or else they were completely evil and any strengths they had are ignored. But really, like this article said, humanity is much more complex than that, and we can admire the accomplishments and strengths of people without endorsing everything they ever did or said.

  36. You make a very good point. The logical question that you brought up that we need to ask ourselves is should we praise and honor certain people? Since it is a fact that the standard of honoring others is not perfection, then I would say yes, we are able to honor certain people. Based on the standard that we do have, there are some who deserve that honor. Like you said we are all sinful beings and can’t be expected to be perfection. When God looks at us, He sees those He has created in His image, and He loves us. We need to do the same for others.

  37. Interesting article and very thought provoking. This was the first time I had ever heard about Luther’s ideas of the Jews and it honestly caught me off guard. I think that most of us tend to set the “heroes of the past” on another level than the rest of us and often forget that they are, along with the rest of us, fallen. I really liked how you concluded and wrapped up your argument by saying that we should praise those things that are worthy of praise, and condemn those things worthy of condemnation.

  38. Honestly, I did not know where this paper was going at the beginning. In my opinion, the answer to the first several questions of do we honor them, scorn them, or both has a very obvious answer. We honor them for the great accomplishments they have achieved both for themselves and for the victories they won for society as a whole each in their own time with a ripple effects down to current generations while being aware of their shortcomings. Essentially we must appreciated what they have done for the good of all of society, while still remembering they are human beings and fell short in other areas of their lives.
    While I agreed with a lot of what was in this essay, I think comparing racism to popularity groups is a little extreme. For one, the “popular” kids do not hate those who are not like them, march while yelling slogans of hate, or try to systematically oppress those not like them. Is it true that kids all the way from middle school throughout sometimes form different groups, those groups are not really compatible to racism or racist groups.

  39. It is encouraging to know that revered people also struggled with sin nature. It is hard to know when to focus on a person’s positive things and life, and when to take away the praise and discount all of the great things the person has done in their life.

  40. Well said. To answer the question: “Do we praise him, condemn him, or both?” I would say that we should praise God for His work through these men, for all the glory is due to Him. These men would not have been able to do these things without the power of God working through them. In addition, we can be grateful for the good things these men have done but not let these feats cover their sin. We should recognize that all human beings, including those seen as heroes, are flawed, just as each one of us is.

  41. You raise a pretty good argument here. Is it okay to revere people when they oppressed groups of people? This is a tricky question to answer. I think that no matter which way you look at it, you can justify your opinion. I can see why someone would not like people such as George Washington and Martin Luther, but I could also see why people would.

  42. This is a very useful post. I did not know this history of Martin Luther. It is sad to hear how racist he was towards Jews. I think Haymond is very right when we can still celebrate him as well as discourage his racist behavior to Jews. In today’s culture we can easily right off the good that people do, due to the bad things in their lives. We need to learn how to take the good with the bad, and learn the most we can from people who have great ideas even if they have other parts of their doctrines that are wrong.

  43. In my opinion, Martin Luther’s greatest legacy for Christians today is that we are saved by grace and not works. That has been fundamental in what Christians believe today. I also find it hard to believe anyone should be fully approved or fully condemned for the work they do. Whether it be someone like Donald Trump or a well-liked professor on campus (Dr. Haymond, for example?), everyone messes up. Moses committed murder among other sins, David committed adultery and murder, so even the greatest Biblical heroes make mistakes. We shouldn’t discredit anyone based on their entire case, but we should use a case-by-case approach when examining someone.

  44. The premiss of wether we should shame or praise Martin Luther is a complex question but at the answer I believe is not that complicated at all. Everyone has sin relevant in their lives and we will all be held accountable for it one day. It is crazy to me that we would shame someone who had a sinful biases in there life. We are not honoring Luther but instead we should be honoring his actions against the church. If we where to shame any person who had good acts to improve our world then Jesus would be the only one we should hold high. Everyone has skeletons in there closet and to shame someone who did so much for the church simply because he had sin in his life is a travesty.

    1. I completely agree. I think it is important that we are honoring his actions against the church and the righteous stand that he made. We are honoring the sin in his life but something that he did well that has impact in today’s world.

  45. Unfortunately, even those people who we consider great among the Christian faith were sinful. If we would throw out every good work just because someone’s actions weren’t entirely perfect, then we would have nothing. As with anything, we must take what each person does with a grain of salt while remembering that we ourselves are far from perfect.

  46. What I get out of this is that no matter how hard we try, we will always be sinning. The greatest person in history or even our role model has done something that is not right in the eyes of God. I did not know that Martin Luther was responsible for some of the persecution of Jews in his days. This just goes to show that we must be extra careful when living our lives. I also think it is still okay to praise a person for the good they do, as long as you are not also praising them for the wrong that they do. For example, I really do like many things that President Trump has done, but at the same time he has said and done some very unwise things that I would rather not associate myself with.

  47. I think that we can definitely praise a person for the things that they have done that honor Christ while also not supporting their every action or opinion. The most important thing is that we do not idolize the person as some sort of perfect example of how we should act, since only Jesus lived a perfect life. We should also be careful not to idolize good works in and of themselves, but instead to focus on becoming Christ-like. It is so easy to criticize others in our minds to make ourselves feel better, but the reality is truly that although each one of us may have done some praiseworthy things, there are so many other areas where we deserve condemnation. It is only fame that has caused the figures mentioned to be subjected to so much public scrutiny.

  48. You bring up many good points. The line of how much bad does a person have to do before we stop exalting them is a very difficult line to draw. I suppose that’s the problem with exalting humans at all, we are all imperfect sinners. I’m not even sure if the Bible draws lines for us in these areas. I would love to hear if someone knows of any.

  49. It’s hard to think of the bible characters as people who committed terrible sins since they are in the bible as being men or women of faith and pursuing God’s heart. I think it is important to remember that God still used these people to have an impact on the world and advance the Christian faith. I think the same is true for people like George Washington and MLK, even though they messed up, God was still using them because we are sinful and cannot live up to the standard that Jesus set for us.

  50. I was really interested and convicted by the topic proposed. I too find myself frequently discounting others for their faults and inadequacies, while simply turning a blind eye to my own. I think what I’ve found missing in my perception of others is the exact thing that Luther preached so passionately about. The true gospel of Christ is that salvation is free to all mankind due to Christ’s work, not our own. With this understanding, there also comes a great amount of grace and forgiveness. Although the men listed above sinned in very public ways or at least under the scrutiny of the public eye, they are not any more deserving of Hell than the rest of us. God bestows upon us vast amounts of grace for our rebellion each and every day, surely we ought to show the same grace to fellow human beings around us on a daily basis and, instead of judging and condemning them, point them towards the truth of the gospel and the open arms of Christ.

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