Two historical figures

Q:  Which historical figure is more significant in human history to date — Martin Luther, or Martin Luther King, Jr.?
A:¹  Huh?  Who is Martin Luther?

MLK, Jr. clearly espoused some important ideals and matched them with rhetoric and influence.  At this point in history, however, it appears clear that ML has had more influence.²  Could we be ignorant and/or blind and/or politically correct more than we are astute?  Consider the following bits, which are lifted from the Wikipedia article on Luther (not King).

  1. Luther taught that salvation and subsequently eternity in heaven is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  (Leaving alone certain exaggerations and runnings-amok of this doctrine, has it been theologically influential?  -bc)
  2. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God.  (Think that might have been courageous?  A bit?  -bc)
  3. He opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood.  (Biblically insightful?)
  4. He insisted on “Christian” as the only acceptable name for individuals who professed Christ.  (Non-sectarian?  -bc)
  5. His translation of the Bible into the vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible.  (Missional?  -bc)
  6. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches.  (Creative and far-sighted?)
  7. His marriage set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant priests to marry.  (Again, courageous and biblically based?  -bc)

Now, I’m no fan of current-day Lutheranism.³  It may be that Martin L. King’s ideals and legacy prove more effective in coming centuries, but I don’t think there’s any question as to who’s been more significant, to this point.

Coming soon:

Two births

Two historical perspectives

Two (+) deli meats


¹ This might not be the actual answer given by the majority in the U.S.A., but the real answer would likely betray almost that level of ignorance.

² I doubt the moral issues raised over some of MLK, Jr.’s behaviors have contributed to his lesser influence.  I am unaware of any suggestion of moral turpitude on the part of ML, however.

³ Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Bach (a Lutheran composer who flourished about 175 years after Martin Luther’s Wittenberg “theses” event), either.  I respect and appreciate Bach and even like many of his works, but I tired of him a few years back.


2 thoughts on “Two historical figures

  1. godschildrenorg 01/19/2015 / 12:31 pm

    Excellent article. I don’t know what it says about me, but I did not have to “think twice” about which is more influential ML or MLK, jr. ML is a more influential historical figure to date…in my mind. Many may differ with us, Brian. I decided long ago that it is just fine if we march to the beat of a different drummer. We are okay just like we are. (And, there will be those who disagree with that last statement, but I declare our right to be different than the majority!) ~~ Anne in Transylvania


    • Brian Casey 01/19/2015 / 2:10 pm

      I was re-thinking this, too . . . figuring that someone, somewhere, will happen onto this blogpost with a racial chip on his/her shoulder. That person may think — *without* thinking, really — that I’m saying something negative about integration or racial unity. Of course I was not saying that (and I know you know that). I was saying that Martin Luther’s influence is more far-reaching in the realm of Christendom than Martin Luther King, Jr.’s influence has been so far. Although African enslavement ran, I think, from the middle 1600s through the middle 1800s (a long time!), the influence of King is barely 50 years old yet, and it’s not proven that effective yet. We’re talking about Luther’s 450 years of influence over the excesses, corruptions, and misdirections of Rome. I do feel supportive of ideals that seek to break down barriers between races. Those ideals (King’s) seem more short-term to me than Luther’s ideals, but they are still important.

      Regardless of whether someone new understands what I was or wasn’t saying in relating Luther’s and King’s influence, respectively, it’s definitely the minority life for us!



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