ADVERTISING
 
Wednesday, August 15   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
New season
What kind of contents do you enjoy most?






SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Jeff Fountain
 

Was Luther a populist?

While his powerful use of the new technology of printing, his appeal to the masses and opposition to the ‘corrupt elites’ certainly resonate with the populist image, his goal was to reform, not overthrow, the established order.

WINDOW ON EUROPE AUTHOR Jeff Fountain 17 JANUARY 2017 09:41 h GMT+1
Luther, populism

Luther’ and ‘Populism’ are two words we will encounter frequently this year. In this 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, populists are expected to influence elections in some fifteen European nations.



Inevitably, the claim will be repeated that Luther was a populist. So, was he? That depends on what we mean by ‘populism’.



A dictionary definition reads: support for the concerns of ordinary people, or the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people. Nothing wrong with that. Populists can be leftist, rightist, or centrist. No identifiable economic or social set of conditions give rise to it. It is not confined to any particular social class.



 



EMOTION



Today the term ‘populism’ is often viewed as wooing an alienated public (‘the forgotten men and women’) through appealing rhetoric or unrealistic and simplistic promises (‘Make Britain/America great again’), and by claiming to take their side against an elitist establishment that has failed to deliver the goods (‘Lock her up!’). It aims to build enough popular support to gain political power (‘take back our land’) and displace the corrupt powers that be (‘drain the swamp’).



Populism flourishes in times of uncertainty, unemployment and hardship, seeking scapegoats for all that is wrong in society (‘Jews, gypsies, homos, Moroccans, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, experts …’). This sort of populism polarises society (‘us versus them’).



Populists seize opportunities to use the latest technology to get their message to the masses, short-circuiting traditional media often identified with the establishment. Social media, especially Twitter, has become a favourite way for populists of immediately responding to latest developments and keeping the initiative. Populists often use ‘politically incorrect’ language, speaking the language of the man on the street, unafraid to confront, offend and alienate, avoiding diplomatic niceties.



Populists appeal to emotion more than to reason, and in worst cases deliberately manipulate their public through propaganda, what everyone now calls ‘fake news’. It is often said that the first casualty of war is truth. But 2016 saw such widespread use of emotional slogans with little relation to reality that ‘post-truth’ was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year–described as ‘an adjective defined as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. While the concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, Oxford Dictionaries observed ‘a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States’.



 



DRIVING FORCES



So, was Luther a populist? He was not a politician seeking popular support. He had no political ambitions. He never ran for any political office. He was a theologian, a priest, a preacher, a professor, a writer and a Bible translator. And yet his speaking, actions and writings had profound political fallout which reshaped the political map of Europe.



His message, while not in the first place aimed at the public, certainly stirred the masses. After the publication of his 95 Theses, crowds turned out to greet him on his travels. On his arrival in Worms for his trial, he was escorted to his lodgings by two-thousand supporters. One contemporary writer polled people in inns around the territory and reported that three out of every four persons he talked to supported Luther.



His brave stand galvanised the popular imagination and has been often blamed for inspiring the bloody Peasants’ Revolt of 1524-26, a result of a tumultuous collection of grievances in many different spheres: political, economic, social, and theological. Yet Luther eventually joined with the ‘lawful authority’ of the burghers, nobility, and princes, preaching peaceful progress and passive resistance. No circumstances justified violence to be used on behalf of the Gospel, he argued.



While his revolutionary and powerful use of the new technology of printing, his sometimes vulgar language, appeal to the masses and opposition to the ‘corrupt elites’ of church and empire certainly resonate with the populist image, his goal was to reform, not overthrow, the established order. Even when excommunicated, Luther saw the new church structure as an emergency measure. Despite his emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, he retained the role of the bishop. He had never intended to break with Rome, as European populists today want to break with Brussels.



Luther was committed to divine truth, not emotional manipulation. The driving force of his life was his search for God’s grace, as Pope Benedict emphasised when visiting Luther’s monastery in Erfurt in 2011. His emphasis on the Bible as God’s Word, the Church as the People of God, the priesthood of all believers, the confession of the crucified Christ, and individual freedom of conscience and faith, has after 500 years been officially embraced by the Church of Rome, something Luther would rejoice to see.



 



Jeff Fountain is Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies, and speaks on issues facing Christians today in Europe. He writes at Weekly Word.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Was Luther a populist?
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow

A team of Steiger mission is starting conversations about the gospel in the middst of the football celebration in Russia.

 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Being a peacemaker Being a peacemaker

Ken Sande, Founder and President of Relational Wisdom 360, develops a practical systematic theology for pursuing peace and resolving the conflicts of real life. 

 
“No one should have to leave their values at the door” “No one should have to leave their values at the door”

Author Krish Kandiah talks with politician Tim Farron about the Christian faith, politics and secularism.

 
What are the essential characteristics of a godly leader? What are the essential characteristics of a godly leader?

Clinical Pastoral Counsellor Emoke Tapolyai reflect on three characteristics Christians who have been given leadership roles should develop.

 
Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’ Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’

How can we reach those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have not experienced a conversion to Christ? Forty missiologists and mission practitioners came together for a Lausanne Movement global consultation in Rome.

 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.