Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary shares what he calls his “9.5 Theses” about the great Reformer Martin Luther. Trueman notes that Martin Luther, his teachings and his convictions likely would would be rather out of place in today’s evangelical, visible church. To be sure, Martin Luther was not one to cater to cultural relevance or pragmatism. As one example, Trueman’s fourth thesis states:
Luther saw suffering as a mark of the true church.
For Luther, the true church would be culturally despised by the great and good. Indeed, his concept of the theologian of the cross gave theological ballast to a theology that eschewed the methods and criteria of success as the world saw them. In his 1539 work, On the Councils of the Church, Luther saw the cross as one of the seven marks of the healthy church. Suffering and being regarded as scum by the world around were to go with the territory. One wonders today how full many of the megachurches would be if the government added 10 per cent income tax on to those who professed Christianity. Indeed, when some of the flagship behemoths of the new evangelical wave did not even have services last year on Sunday, December 25, because it coincided with Christmas, one wonders what commitment, suffering and sacrifice in such contexts mean, if anything at all.