Photo: Liam Neeson, courtesy Osei (Ozzy)
The tone of the feature ‘Empires: Martin Luther’ is low-key and academic. Superstar Liam Neeson is unseen and narrates soothingly. Timothy West emotes very effectively as Luther in his last days alive, reflecting wearily on what had happened. Except for the comments by six academic consultants there is no other dialogue. The academics -- including devout Christians, nominal Christians and a Jew -- are not universally Luther sympathizers. They all have excellent credentials. All research the historical period and are competent enough in German to have delved into primary sources. Their competence in Latin, the language used by the very earliest Luther, is not evident. This blog summarizes them because in large measure they shape the interpretation of Martin Luther within the ‘Empires: Martin Luther’. The position of the six consultants shown below is current (2010), not that in 2002 during the release of ‘Empires: Martin Luther’. They appear in the following order:
Photo: Alister McGrath, courtesy Mattei A.
- Alister McGrath (PhD, Oxford Un., Biophysics; DD, Oxford Un.) is an ordained deacon in the Church of England and chairs the Center for Theology, Religion and Culture at King's College, Un. of London.
- Michael Mullett (PhD, Un. Lancaster, History) is Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Lancaster (UK).
- Susan Karant-Nunn (PhD, Indiana Un., History) is Director of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies in the Department of History at the University of Arizona.
- Mark U. Edwards, Jr. (PhD, Stanford Un., History) is Advisory Member of the Faculty of Divinity and Senior Adviser to the Dean at Harvard Divinity School.
- Miri Rubin (PhD, Cambridge, History) is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary College, Un. of London.
- Euan Kerr Cameron (PhD, Oxford Un., History) is Henry Luce III Professor of Reformation Church History at Union Theological Seminary in NYC.
Some final comments by the consultants in the program suggest their evaluation of Luther and/or his impact (It should be noted the consultants abhorred his extreme rhetoric aimed against the peasants and the Jews.):
- Alistair McGrath: Luther’s ideas “were much more radical than he realized”. Religion became local with “local rules”.
- Michael Mullett: Luther was “…one of the great emancipators of human history”.
- Susan Karant-Nunn: Luther was “irrepressible…outrageous…witty” and he “remains highly relevant in our imaginations”.
- Mark U. Edwards, Jr.: Luther “resonates”. He was “an elementary force”.
- Miri Rubin: Luther was “savvy enough” to realize violence would sour secular rulers on his ideas. There was “no longer one Christian Europe”. “Moreover, it becomes a global story.”
- Euan Kerr Cameron: “no half measures”.
And Luther himself in his final days? “When I die I want to be a ghost and pester the bishops, priests, and godless monks so that they have more trouble with a dead Luther than they could have had before with a thousand living ones.”*
*Though this quote is given by Luther in his last days in ‘Empires: Martin Luther’, the quote is actually attributed to Luther in 1532 (14 years before his death).
Q. Are the six academics too pro-Lutheran?