Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Eastern Church, Luther, and the Protestant Reformation

Professor Jennifer Powell McNutt has written the following article, making the connection of the Eastern Church with the Protestant Reformation. -Eclecticity

Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Sean Gallup / Staff / Getty / WikiMedia Commons

Protestants engaged with both the Eastern Orthodox tradition and Oriental Orthodox traditions in a few consistent ways. To Protestants, it mattered immensely that Eastern branches of the church did not follow the Catholic practices of preaching purgatory, selling indulgences, or observing petrine supremacy. Luther marveled at how the churches of Armenia, Ethiopia, and India had avoided the private masses that developed in the West since Gregory the Great’s time. Luther also regarded it significant that, before there was a “pope,” there were the bishops of Ethiopia, Syria, Antioch, and Rome. The Orthodox branches were a link back to a purer, more apostolic era.

The church of Ethiopia, especially, was mentioned among early modern Christians. Some scholars have noted that Luther mentions Ethiopia at least 85 times in his written works. (It was a common though mistaken belief to view Ethiopia as the first Christian kingdom. That belief was based on a particular reading of Acts 8.) Luther’s esteem only grew after he was visited by Michael the Deacon, an Ethiopian cleric, in 1534. As Daniels explains,

For Luther, the Church of Ethiopia had more fidelity to the Christian tradition. ... Thus, the Church in Europe needed to be reformed in the direction of the Church of Ethiopia. Possibly for Luther the Church of Ethiopia was proof that his reform of the Church in Europe had both a biblical and a historical basis. To read the whole article, click here.

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