The Legacy of Luther
In 1978, Michael H. Hart published a book titled The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. Any book like this will cause enormous debate by its very nature, and I myself strongly disagree with some of the author’s conclusions. For example, he places Jesus in third place—after Muhammad and Isaac Newton—and I cannot help but wonder if the author has ever considered why the publication date of his book is 1978 and not 1408 or 335. Our dates themselves are oriented by the years of Christ’s life. Muhammad and Newton were influential figures in history; Jesus is the Lord of history. But I digress.
The author ranks Martin Luther at number twenty-five on his list. I’m not going to quibble with the specific ranking because, aside from the ranking of Jesus on this list, I’m not sure it is possible to quantify influence with anything close to precision. I mention this book, however, because it does include Luther among the twenty-five most influential persons in all of history, and to be included in the top twenty-five out of several billion is quite an accomplishment. It means that Luther’s influence in history is obvious to all observers. Luther’s life and work significantly affected European history, the German language, the church, and theology, among other things. This article will look specifically at Luther’s theological legacy with a focus on the doctrines of justification sola fide and sola Scriptura.