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Review of the Luther Movie Starring Joseph Fienes

by Mary Cage

There is a message in the movie, Luther, that is timeless. And it is this: God's Gospel of Grace in Jesus Christ is not a device of men; and men have no right to manipulate, control, coerce, deceive and oppress the masses in the name of God and His Gospel. The church is not an institution of men; it is Christ's institution -- a supernatural entity that reveals a God of Love, not an earthly entity left in the hands of fallible and unscrupulous men to perpetrate cruelty. The truth that Luther fought for, taking on the most powerful institution in the world of his day, was the truth that God's message contained in the New Testament presents a God Who sent His Son to die for the sins of the world so that mankind could be free; and that gift is offered freely to all, simply by grace through faith. The poorest and humblest human being on the face of the earth has as much right to the gospel as the richest ruler, because it cannot be bought or sold; nor is it the possession of the few. It is the possession of all who receive it by faith.

I must admit that Martin Luther is one of my heroes. He sits on a pedastal in my heart just a step below the Apostle Paul -- two mere fallible men who turned the world upside down for the gospel. Luther must not be blamed for the atrocities that were committed in his name: including the peasant uprising of his day and perhaps even Hitler's monstrous evils centuries later. These evils were perpetrated by willful, ignorant men. Luther was a brilliant and courageous man of peace and of faith, who stood boldly for the Word of God, and who wanted only to overturn and reform the ecclesiastical heresies of his day. Oh, yes, he was human and sometimes said and did things he should not. Even though his critics are quick to speak of his flaws and controversial statements, they otherwise ignore the fact that we owe much of our freedoms today, political and religious, to this man, Martin Luther.

The movie itself is a beautiful portrayal of Luther's fight against religious tyranny. I was a little disappointed that they left out one of the most important scenes in his life. When preparing a lecture for one of his courses, he came across Romans 1:17, which says, "The just shall live by faith." Luther himself said that at that moment, the gospel opened up to him and he felt that he was "born again." It was after that turning point in his life that he began his fight against the errors of the Roman church.

Nevertheless, even though that particular moment in Luther's life is omitted, the movie does clearly set forth that it was Luther's personal faith in Christ and his reverence for the Word of God that set him on the course that could have so easily brought him to a martyr's death.

Joseph Fiennes gives a fine portrayal of Luther; and Peter Ustinov is outstanding as the German ruler Prince Frederick, who, by his intervention, kept Luther from burning at the stake at the hands of cruel clerics. The acting is excellent all around, and the 15th century costumes and settings are very well done.

"Luther" should be seen by everyone who is interested in history, church history and the gospel. It should be seen by those who adhere to freedom against any form of tyranny, be it governmental, institutional or personal. It should be seen by the ignorant to aid in their enlightenment; it should be seen by the wise, to reinforce their wisdom. It should be seen by Protestants, Catholics, atheists, agnostics and all others in between. Then all should ask themselves the question: Where today are those who will stand for Truth in the face of great adversity and persecution?

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