Martin Luther as Missionary

lutherThis paper has been published previously on “Go!” But, I have had requests to publish it again. Over the next number of Mondays, an adapted version of a paper I presented on Martin Luther will be posted.  The topic of the presentation is “Luther as Missionary.” This paper was presented at Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton on October 30, 2008.

John Warwick Montgomery, writing almost 40 years ago, says, “A current joke has to do with a new Martin Luther doll: you wind it up and it just ‘stands there!’”  Montgomery asks, “Did Luther just stand there – at Wittenberg, at Leipzig, at Worms, at Marburg – or did he move dynamically with a sense of mission to the lost?”  (John Warwick Montgomery, “Luther and the Missionary Challenge,” In Defense of Martin Luther.  (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1970), 160.  This chapter (pp. 160-169) is referenced extensively in this paper.)

Martin Luther has been accused of not being sufficiently mission-minded by historians of the stature of Gustav Warneck.  (Gustav Warneck, Outline of the History of Protestant Missions (Edinburgh& London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1906). Ruth A. Tucker, professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids asserts, “Martin Luther was so certain of the imminent return of Christ that he overlooked the necessity of foreign missions. He further sought to justify his position by claiming the Great Commission was binding only on the New Testament apostles, who had fulfilled their obligation by spreading the gospel throughout the known world, thus exempting succeeding generations from responsibility.”[1]   (Tucker, Ruth A., From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions.  Second Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004, 97.)  Kenneth B. Mulholland, Dean and Professor of Missions and Ministry Studies at Columbia Biblical Seminary and School of Missions, Columbia, SC maintains that “Luther taught that the Great Commission had already been fulfilled. Christ, Luther said, gave the Great Commission to the apostles.  And they preached the gospel throughout the world. Since that was done, no longer is the church responsible to carry the gospel to other lands. So Luther said, ‘There is no need for missions’”. (“From Luther to Carey: Pietism and the Modern Missionary Movement,” http://ciu.edu/seminary/resources/articles/missions/from_luther_to_carey_pietism.php Article 1 in a two part series adapted from “Planks in the Platform of Modern Missions” delivered at Dallas Theological Seminary, Nov. 2-5, 1997)

James Warwick Montgomery, reacting to such assertions, says that “to attribute such views to Luther is, however, to fly directly in the face of the evidence.” (Montgomery, p. 162)

Next Monday we will begin to explore the evidence that supports Montgomery’s assertion.

This entry was posted in Alberta -- British Columbia DIstrict (LCC), Center for US Missions, Church of the Lutheran Brethren, Concordia Lutheran Mission Society, Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, Concordia Seminary, Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne), Discipleship, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sierra Leone, Evangelism, Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, Independent Evangelical -- Lutheran Church, India Evangelical Lutheran Church, International Lutheran Council, Istanbal Lutheran Church, Lutheran, Lutheran Bible Translators, Lutheran Bible Translators of Canada, Lutheran Church - Canada Central District, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church -- Canada, Lutheran Church -- Canada East District, Lutheran Church -- Hong Kong Synod, Lutheran Church in Latin America, Lutheran Church in Mozambique, Lutheran Church of Australia, Lutheran Church of Ingria (Russia), Lutheran Church of Nicaragua, Lutheran Church of Nigeria, Lutheran Church of Ukraine, Lutheran Church Thailand, Lutheran Heritage Foundation, Lutheran Hour Ministries, Lutheran Laymen's League, Lutheran Missiology, Lutheran Reformation, Lutheran Society for Missiology, Lutheran Theological Review, Lutheran Women's Missionary League -- Canada, Lutheran World Federation, Malabar Mission Society, Malagasy Lutheran Church, Martin Luther, missio Dei, Missiology, Missional, Missional Leadership, Missionary, Priesthood of all Believers, Selbstandige Evangelisch -- Lutherishche Kirche (SELK), The Association of Lutheran Missionaries and Pilots -- Canada, The Lutheran Hour, World Missions. Bookmark the permalink.