Were Martin Luther’s ideas the beginning of a larger movement for international human rights in the 20th century?
When Martin Luther King, Jr., marched on Selma, wrote a defense of civil disobedience from a Jail in Birmingham, and proclaimed his dream of racial equality on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, was he acting in the tradition of his namesake, the 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther? Were their connections to the unfolding stream of Protestant history merely historical accidents? Were they both just responding to the universal human resolve to stand for conviction and truth?
To ask the question more broadly, did the Protestant Reformation play any positive role in the development of human rights in the west?
The 500th anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517 is a perfect time to reflect on these questions. 500 Years of Protest and Liberty traces a direct line from Martin Luther’s powerful ideas about the equality of persons before God to more current debates about equal opportunity and the fundamental rights of humanity. Along the way, it asks tough questions about where the protestant church is headed today.
Most important, 500 Years of Protest and Liberty is a reminder that Martin Luther’s powerful ideas, which shaped our thinking as Christians today, call us back to the fundamental principles of our Christianity.