Was Martin Luther A Charismatic Christian? A Method For Probing A Burning Question -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 24:1 (Sep 2017)
Article: Was Martin Luther A Charismatic Christian? A Method For Probing A Burning Question
Author: Annang Asumang

Was Martin Luther A Charismatic Christian? A Method For Probing A Burning Question

Annang Asumang1


The rapid growth and near dominance of the Charismatic movement world-wide has inevitably raised the question as to its organic relationship with the Protestant Reformation. Answering this question is important not only for assessing Martin Luther’s five-hundred-years-old legacy, but even more so for defining the nature, and predicting the future direction, of the movement. After critically evaluating two common approaches that are adopted for answering the question, namely, the historical and theological approaches, this article argues for and defends an exegetical methodology which enables Luther’s expositions of Bible passages that are foundational to the Charismatic movement to more precisely direct such an investigation. As a validating test-case, it further engages Luther’s expositions of Romans 12:3-8 to establish the extent of continuity, if any, with the Charismatic renewal. Even though not fully conclusive, as it only focuses

on a single passage, the findings nevertheless demonstrate the significant advantages of the proposed method.

1. Introduction

Would Martin Luther feel perfectly at home in today’s Charismatic pulpit or would he instead be issued with a twenty-first-century equivalent of the Exsurge Domine2? This hypothetical question has been put in an admittedly playful and perhaps frivolous manner, but the implications of its answer are no laughing matter. For a start, there is a clear indication that allowing even for a rigorous definition of the term (cf. Barrett 1988, 119-129)3, the complexion of Global Christianity in the coming decades, if not already, will be Charismatic. As Hackett and colleagues (2011) have demonstrated, Charismatic Christianity, defined by Lugo and colleagues (2006:1) as characterized by ‘lively, highly personal faiths, which emphasize such spiritually renewing “gifts of the Holy Spirit” as speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying’, constitutes almost a third of the world’s 2 billion Christians. In any case, it has the fastest rate of growth by far among the denominations, especially in the Global South where the ‘centre of gravity’ of the religion now resides (Jenkins 2011, 4; Johnson and Chung 2004, 166-181). Thus, the question goes to the heart of contemporary Christian self-expression. Would Martin Luther fit in?

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