Friday, 30 April 2010

The Depressed Luther

I consider Martin Luther to be a bit of a hero. I realise that the moment I say this people will want to remind me of his feet of clay. Afterall Luther said awful things about Jews and Anabaptists, and in relation to the peasants’ revolt. I have no desire to defend what he said in such contexts, but I do believe that such spiteful attitudes were not the essence of the man. I do not say this simply because I am an evangelical, who feels indebted to his theological insights. Non-evangelical writers (such as Martin Marty and Roland Bainton) also paint Luther in a generally positive light.

It is often pointed out that Luther suffered from depression. Bainton writes about a young Luther saying, ‘There is just one respect in which Luther appears to have been different from other youths of his time, namely, in that he was extraordinary sensitive and subject to recurrent periods of exaltation and depression of spirit’ (p. 20). This was a battle that remained with him. Like many who have suffered from acute anxiety, Luther repeatedly testified that the torments he suffered were far worse than any physical ailment that he had ever endured. This was no idle observation given that Luther had a number of health problems.

Over the next week I am going to blog some thoughts on Luther’s battle with depression.

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